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New Series 

Volume 5 

Fall 1997 

Published by The Thoreau Society 


(ISSN 1068-5359) 

Published by The Thoreau Society 

Original Series, Volumes 1-20, 1966-1988 
New Series Begun Fall 1993 


Ronald Wesley Hoag 

Advisory Editors 

Bradley P. Dean Wesley T. Mott Joel Myerson 

Editorial Assistants 

William Stacey Cochran Alicia L. Uhlin 

The front-cover image of Thoreau' s Walden Pond cabin, based on a drawing by 
Henry's sister Sophia, appeared in the first printing of Walden in 1854. The 
passage about sauntering is from Thoreau' s "Walking" manuscript. The likeness 
of Thoreau on the back cover is from an 1856 Benjamin D. Maxham daguerreo- 
type, owned by the Thoreau Society. 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, an annual publication of The Thoreau Society, 
Inc., seeks biographical, historical, textual, bibliographical, and interpretive ar- 
ticles relating to Henry Thoreau and his associates, Concord, and Transcendental- 
ism. Submissions of all lengths are invited; shorter pieces not used will also be 
considered for the quarterly THOREAU SOCIETY BULLETIN. Contributions 
should conform to The Chicago Manual of Style for endnote documentation. Send 
two copies plus a stamped return envelope to the Editor, THE CONCORD 
SAUNTERER, Department of English, East Carolina University, Greenville, 
North Carolina 27858-4353. Decisions are reported within three months. Sub- 
scription to THE CONCORD SAUNTERER is by membership in the Society; see 
the back cover for additional information. THE CONCORD SAUNTERER is 
indexed in the MLA International Bibliography. 


New Series Volume 5 Fall 1997 

Editor 's Pages and Announcements 1 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 

Rethinking Thoreau and 

the History of American Ecology 5 

Madeleine Minson 

In Search of Spring and Fall: 

Anticipation of Seasons in Thoreau 's Journal 23 

Henrik Gustafsson 

Henry Thoreau and the Advent of American Rail 47 

James Porter 

Thoreau and Australia: 

Sauntering Under the Southern Cross 73 

Edmund J. Banfield 

Australia's Literary Beachcomber: 

Confessions of a Different Drummer 83 

David Lyttle 

"The World Is a Divine Dream ": 

Emerson \s Subjective Idealism 93 

The Concord Saunterer 

Ronald A. Bosco 

Twelve Ungathered Poems 

by Franklin B. Sanborn (1831-191 7) 113 

J. Parker Huber 

John Muir and Thoreau 's Cape Cod 1 33 

Anne LaBastille 

Home Places: Excerpts from Woodswoman III 157 

David G. Fuller 

Correcting the Newspapers: 

Thoreau and "A Plea for Captain John Brown " 165 

Sharlene Roeder 

Uncaptured Monsters: 

The Ostracizing Allusions of Walden 177 

Notes on Contributors 1 89 

Presidents of The Thoreau Society 193 



Thoreau- ' 
Society 1 ^ 

Founded in 1941 

Copyright 1997© by The Thoreau Society, Inc. 

Editor 's Pages 

It's been an eventful and auspicious year in Thoreau Country. The new 
library at the Thoreau Institute in Lincoln is finished and now being stocked with 
the core collections of (in alphabetical order) Raymond Adams, Walter Harding, 
and Roland Robbins, given to the Thoreau Society for this specific purpose. 
Modestly scaled and harmoniously integrated into Walden Woods, the library is 
nothing short of monumental in its contents and reach. Soon Thoreauvians 
everywhere will be able to visit the most comprehensive Thoreau-related library 
in the world, many in person but most through the internet as the evolving 
holdings go on line. But technology — and Henry Thoreau? It is helpful to remind 
ourselves that, ambivalent about technology though he was, Thoreau objected not 
to "improved means" but rather to the "unimproved end" to which they were often 
put. (See, on this point, "Henry Thoreau and the Advent of American Rail" in this 
issue.) The goal of the Thoreau Society and the Thoreau Institute is, first and 
foremost, the improved end of Thoreauvian education. 

In addition to the library, that mandate to educate has also involved the 
Thoreau Society in other collaborative efforts. Now in its second successful year, 
a lecture series at the Concord Museum has featured many Society volunteers as 
speakers and organizers. The same is true of the various programs for educators 
and students of all grade levels offered at or through the Thoreau Institute. The 
Society has also begun an ambitious program of publications including a series of 
books presenting Thoreau' s comments on various topics as edited by experts in 
those areas of Thoreauvian thought. To be published by long-time Thoreau 
purveyor Houghton Mifflin, these books will all carry the Thoreau Society im- 
print. That same imprint will also grace a separate series of classic works on 
Thoreau that are presently out of print. 

For those wondering where, in all this "Thoreauvian" education, is the 
eye-opening encounter with nature — called by Emerson "the first in importance of 
the influences upon the mind" — there is a welcome answer. The July 1997 annual 
meeting in Concord involved more contact with nature than any other Society 
gathering ever (with the possible exception of the much longer Fiftieth Anniver- 
sary Jubilee). From thoughtful explorations of local gems such as the Concord, 
Assabet, and Sudbury Rivers, Estabrook Woods, and Walden Pond itself, to field 
trips to Mount Wachusett and other Thoreauvian haunts, the outdoors was con- 
sciously engaged at the 1997 gathering — and will be hereafter. Last summer also, 
a group of Society members journeyed to Millinocket, Maine, to present a plaque 
to Baxter State Park for its stewardship of Mount Katahdin, icon of the Thoreauvian 
sublime and the "highest land" in Thoreau's pantheon of sacred mountains. 
Featuring more than just a standard testimonial dinner, the trip also included a 

2 The Concord Saunterer 

tributary climb of Katahdin itself and, for some, an aerial excursion over all of 
Thoreau's Maine Woods. A highlight in the truest sense, the Katahdin trip will be 
repeated this summer by another Society-sponsored group. This year, too, a 
Society expedition will visit Thoreau's Cape Cod beaches. Participants are now 
being enlisted for both trips. 

Because enjoying nature requires preserving it, the Thoreau Society is 
rightly involved in the preservation of all Thoreau Country. Close to home, the 
salvation and preservation of Walden Pond, Walden Woods, Estabrook Woods, 
and Thoreau's birthplace farmstead on Virginia Road are initiatives that de- 
serve — and receive — Society support. All of these endeavors face obstacles 
ranging from insufficient finances to, in the case of Estabrook, impending en- 
croachment by development on what should be secured as an ecological and 
historical treasure. Yet there is also reason to hope. In all four instances public 
consciousness has to some degree been raised — a consciousness that, as Henry 
said, has the power, if harbored in the mind, "to float the British Empire like a 
chip." Expressed in other Concord-related terms, the alarm has been given and the 
citizenry aroused. We wait now to see who — and how many — will gather to 
defend home ground in which we all have a stake. For Thoreau Country, numbers 
will determine, one way or another, how much day is yet to dawn. 

This fifth anniversary issue in the "new series" of The Concord Saunterer 
is the largest in the history of the journal, which began publication in 1966. 
Thoreauvians are a varied lot, but there should be something here for almost 
everyone. The mix of topics and treatments includes (but is not limited to) 
ecology, natural history, nature writing, geography, philosophy, poetry, mythol- 
ogy, technology, history, and criticism — involving (among others) John Muir, 
John Brown, Franklin B. Sanborn, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anne LaBastille, and, 
pervasively, Henry David Thoreau. And among the eleven articles in this our 
most international issue yet are contributions from Australia, England, and Swe- 

Comments and questions about The Concord Saunterer are always wel- 
come and should be directed to the editor at East Carolina University (full address 
on inside front cover). For information on the Thoreau Society, the Thoreau 
Institute, efforts to preserve Thoreau Country, and upcoming excursions and 
activities, contact The Thoreau Society, 44 Baker Farm, Lincoln, Massachusetts 
01773; phone number (781) 259-4750; e-mail address; 



ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance now offers a twenty percent 
discount on subscriptions to Thoreau Society members. See the advertisement at 
the end of this issue. 

Back issues of The Concord Saunterer, New Series, Volumes 1-5 (1993-1997) are 
available at $10.00 for a single copy and $8.00 each for multiple copies (same or 
different annual issues). There is an international postage surcharge of $8.00 per 
copy ($2.00 for Canada and Mexico), payable in U.S. funds or by international 
money order. International orders are shipped by air mail. Order individual 
copies from our editorial address (inside front cover). Thoreau Society members 
receive a subscription to The Concord Saunterer. For membership information 
see the inside rear cover. 

Books and merchandise advertised in this issue of The Concord Saunterer are 
available from the Thoreau Society store, The Shop at Walden Pond. Thoreau 
Society members receive a ten percent discount on all purchases. See the 
advertisement at the end of this issue. 


Engraving by James D. Smillie 
from Picturesque America (published 1874) 

%tthinking 'Tfiorcau and 
the 9-tistory of American "EcoCogy 

Frank N. Egerton 
Laura Dassow Walls 

The current interest in Thoreau and science continues a longstanding 
debate over the value of Thoreau' s observations to science. This debate was 
complicated by the fact that Thoreau' s theories and observations were carried out 
in a science that did not, in any formal sense, yet exist: ecology. The first attempt 
to describe Thoreau' s ecological studies within a broad historical tradition was 
Frank Egerton' s 1976 survey article on the history of American ecology. 1 At that 
time, several good articles on Thoreau and ecology already existed, and since then 
even more such studies have been published, stimulated not by Egerton' s article 
(which went largely unnoticed by Thoreau scholars) but by the increasing interest 
in both Thoreau and ecology. 2 

While Egerton' s survey of three centuries of American ecology retains 
its usefulness for placing Thoreau' s work within a broader context, the recent 
publication of Faith in a Seed has fundamentally broadened the basis forjudging 
the place held by Thoreau. 3 Before, the most astute assessment of Thoreau' s 
relationship to science seemed to him to be that of the literary critics, who saw in 
Thoreau' s work signs of an irresolvable conflict between literary artistry and 
scientific methodology. Now, by contrast, it seems clear that Thoreau' s scientific 
critics, whose evaluations of his place in science were both less well known and 
far more enthusiastic, were in fact more responsive to Thoreau' s considerable 
achievements in ecology. In the wake of Faith in a Seed, new, detailed assess- 
ments of Thoreau and ecology are emerging which offer a necessary corrective to 
earlier views. The following remarks offer an interim guide to the literature, and 
an overview of the reasons for the changing evaluations of Thoreau' s contribu- 
tions to ecology. 

To understand why this change is so dramatic, one needs to keep in mind 
both the history of ecology and the history of the posthumous publication of 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

The Concord Saunterer 

Thoreau's writings. Although "ecology" as a science was named in 1866, it was 
only at the end of the nineteenth century that it began to be organized as a 
scientific field. To complicate the term still further, since 1970 the environmental 
movement has often borrowed the name "ecology" to signify a concern for 
preserving the environment, although the science and the political movement are 
quite distinct. 4 

Despite the terminology being quite recent (meaning that Thoreau lived 
before this science was named or organized), an interest in ecological subjects 
such as the "balance of nature" has existed since antiquity. 5 In Thoreau's day, 
discussions of such subjects were lumped under the very broad heading of 
"natural history," even as particular sciences were emerging from natural history 
as professional fields in their own right: chemistry, geology, botany, zoology and, 
rather more slowly, ecology itself. 

The older domain of natural history had been organized according to the 
traditional division of animal, vegetable, and mineral, which made theoretical 
connections difficult to identify and analyze. Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) offered the 
earliest conceptual framework for a theory of natural relationships by formalizing 
the balance of nature as the "economy of nature," an influential concept he first 
outlined in 1749. 6 Linnaeus also developed the study of "phenology," a correla- 
tion between climate and biological activity; although the term itself was not used 
until the mid-nineteenth century, the idea of the "calendar" of natural activity was 
important through the eighteenth and well into the nineteenth centuries. 7 Finally, 
in the first half of the nineteenth century, the German naturalist Alexander von 
Humboldt (1769-1859) attempted to use the globe itself as a framework for the 
study of the interconnectedness of all natural phenomena, organic and inorganic, 
in his science of "physical geography" 8 — a science that Ernst Haeckel, in 1866, 
named "ecology." 

Thoreau's own ecological perspective came from four sources and was 
therefore a complex and changing aspect of his intellect. These sources were: (1) 
his love of nature, which goes back to his childhood experiences and was an 
important part of his feelings throughout his life; (2) his readings, which were 
influenced by this love of nature; (3) his experiences in nature, which were 
influenced by both his feelings and his readings; and (4) his transcendentalism, 
which was influenced by, though not identical with, the views of Ralph Waldo 

Three scientists whose work and writings were very important for the 
development of ecology exerted a particular influence, both direct and indirect, on 
Thoreau: Linnaeus, 9 Humboldt, 10 and Darwin. 1 ' Thoreau's first exposure was to 
the ideas of Carl Linnaeus, who was a very influential professor in Sweden now 
best remembered for having founded binomial nomenclature and hence modern 
plant and animal taxonomy. Yet Linnaeus was also central to the founding of 
ecological ideas, both directly and through his influence on his students: practi- 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 

cally all of the doctoral dissertations which his students defended were virtually 
written by Linnaeus, who also had them published. At least a dozen of these had 
ecological themes, the most important of which were on what we call the balance 
of nature and on phenology, which were called respectively by Linnaeus and his 
contemporaries "economy of nature" and "calendar of nature." 1 - One of his 
students, the Scandinavian botanist-explorer Pehr Kalm (c. 1715-79), gained his 
own ecological perspective from studying under Linnaeus; after his travels in 
North America from 1748-51, Kalm published a three-volume account of the 
vegetation, wildlife, and climate in the British Colonies, a work which Thoreau 
also read and which could claim for Kalm the honor of being the first ecologist in 
America. '^ 

Thoreau admired the writings of both Humboldt and Charles Darwin 
( 1 809-82). which he first encountered between 1 849 and 1 85 1 . Both authors wrote 
important narrative science reports of their explorations in Latin America, with 
Darwin being strongly influenced by Humboldt's example. Both managed to be 
reasonably objective in making scientific observations while also intermixing 
their personal responses to both the nature and civilizations which they encoun- 
tered. Humboldt had a particular interest in humanity's relationship to the cosmos 
and he drew upon his own encyclopedic knowledge to discuss the matter. By 
contrast, Darwin had little inclination to discuss metaphysics in print, but he did 
end The Origin of Species (1859) with the brief observation that his theory of 
evolution by natural selection, if valid, would throw light on humanity's place in 
nature. 14 

Thoreau' s own interest in humanity's place in nature saw its first expres- 
sion in two early essays, published (for the first time) too late for use in Egerton* s 
1976 survey, but making evident the importance of the concept of phenology for 
Thoreau' s earliest thinking. The first, titled "The Seasons," was written in 1 828 or 
1829 and shows his early fascination with the subject. It is only four paragraphs 
long, one for each season, and prefaced by four lines of poetry which suggest his 
youthful allegiance to the doctrine of divine design: 

Why do the Seasons change? And why 
Does Winter's stormy brow appear? 
It is the word of him on high. 
Who rules the changing varied year. l5 

His second phenological essay, written March 31, 1836, was stimulated by his 
reading of William Howitt's The Book of the Seasons; or the Calendar of Nature 
(1831). Thoreau praises the organizing idea of Howitt's book, which is "neither 
too scientific" nor "too miscellaneous and catch-penny" and can be adapted from 
"the climate and customs of England" to natural scenery in any clime or nation. 
Proceeding month by month, Thoreau quotes liberally from Howitt and adds 

8 The Concord Saunterer 

occasional comments loosely evocative of New England seasons. 16 Thanks to 
Robert Sattelmeyer's study of Thoreau's reading, we know that Thoreau referred 
to Howitt's book three more times, twice in his Journal in 1853 and 1854, and 
once in his Commonplace Book of 1856-61, when his interest in phenology was 
apparently more extensive than it had been in 1836. 17 

The books and essays which Thoreau himself published are helpful for 
evaluating his contributions to ecology, but consideration of them is beyond the 
scope of this brief essay. Of more immediate interest here is Thoreau's Journal 
(1837-61), which is full of ecological observations and comments. H. G. O. 
Blake's four volumes of extracts — Early Spring in Massachusetts (1881), Sum- 
mer (1884), Winter (1887), and Autumn (1892) — represent the Journal's domi- 
nant phenological focus. 18 Even without scholarly annotations, Blake's volumes 
aroused enough interest in Thoreau's Journal to motivate Bradford Torrey and 
Francis H. Allen to publish their "almost complete" fourteen-volume edition 
(1906), which is annotated and indexed. 19 The Princeton edition, which is 
currently being published, meets the much higher standards of contemporary 
scholarship than existed at the time of these earlier editions and includes portions 
previously omitted. 20 

It is possible to argue, as has Sharon Cameron, that the Journal is a 
complete and finished work on its own terms and should be read as it is, rather 
than excerpted in the manner of H. G. O. Blake, or read merely as a source for 
Thoreau's more formal works. 21 Ironically, this is itself an ecological question, as 
Thoreau himself recognized: perhaps thoughts "written down thus in a journal 
might be printed in the same form with greater advantage — than if the related ones 
were brought together into separate essays. They are now allied to life." By 
analogy, Thoreau wonders whether the flower looks better "in the nosegay — than 
in the meadow where it grew — & we had to wet our feet to get it!" 22 Thoreau saw 
the attractiveness of leaving the Journal in its natural state, but he also "mined" it 
for thematic purposes: It is thus possible to see in the later years of the Journal the 
gathering materials for the projects which Thoreau planned but did not live to 
complete, and here the full importance of Thoreau's increasingly ecological work 
becomes apparent. 

Much of this work was gathered into an essay of special ecological 
interest, his address to the Middlesex Agricultural Society on "The Succession of 
Forest Trees" ( 1 860), which contains important original observations and conclu- 
sions. 23 Yet this essay was only a brief early version of a much greater project on 
forest reproduction. The longer manuscript, The Dispersion of Seeds, incomplete 
at Thoreau's death, is now available in an attractive edition, edited with great care 
by Bradley P. Dean. 24 Readers of Thoreau's Journal will not find novel material 
in this newly published work, but rather a novel commitment to his discoveries 
without worry about squaring these accounts with his poetic temperament. In- 
stead, what emerges is an experimental new approach to mediating science and 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 9 

poetry without sacrificing either, an approach which evidences a new concern 
about engaging readers in his intellectual interest in ecological problems and in his 
growing concern about preservation and management of natural areas. - 

It would be risky to imagine that this work signifies a permanent shift in 
attitude, which, though a possibility, would have become evident only had Thoreau 
lived longer. We may ask, however, what motivated him to set aside another, more 
characteristically Thoreauvian work. Wild Fruits, to spend his last creative efforts 
on a more strictly ecological treatise. 26 Part of the answer must be that he realized 
that he had accumulated a long series of observations which could be organized 
into a coherent, original treatise on forest reproduction in New England, and that it 
could provide an understanding of how to better manage woodlots. However, 
additional motivation also seems to have come from his reading in 1860 of 
Darwin's Origin of Species. 

Thoreau had read Darwin's Journal of Researches in 1 85 1 and had been 
interested enough to abstract several portions of it into his own Journal. 21 and thus 
he already knew by 1860 that Darwin shared his own interest in the interrelation- 
ships of living nature. What he realized from reading the Origin was that his 
knowledge of forest reproduction would interest Darwin and Darwin's readers, 
and therefore it was worthwhile organizing his knowledge into his own treatise. It 
is unfortunate that he did not live long enough to have it published, for it would 
have established a secure place for Thoreau as a founder of modern ecology. 

Instead, that honor usually goes to another defender of Darwin's theory 
of evolution, the German biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). who coined the 
word "ecology" in 1 866 and defined it (in language reminiscent of Alexander von 
Humboldt's) as "the whole science of the relations of the organism to the environ- 
ment including, in a broad sense, all the 'conditions of existence.' These are partly 
organic, partly inorganic." 28 Yet it would still be another twenty years before 
botanists and zoologists began to organize a formal science of ecology, during the 
1890s and early 1900s. 29 The pressures of professionalization left their mark on 
the early formation of the science: because some critics scoffed that those in- 
volved in this effort were just giving new names to a very old natural history, some 
ecologists felt a need to distance themselves from older natural history writings. 
Thus emphasis was on conducting new. clearly ecological studies rather than on 
trying to find older studies that contained useful observations for a new context. 

Under these conditions, it is not surprising that early ecologists did not 
turn to Thoreau's writings for data or models. It was. instead, the nature writers 
who continued to find Thoreau valuable. Two of the most prominent nature 
writers of the period were John Muir and John Burroughs, both strongly influ- 
enced by Thoreau. Although Muir was amused by Thoreau's limited enthusiasm 
for the Maine wilderness, he was much more interested in Thoreau's outlook than 
in his scientific or backwoods expertise. 30 Burroughs, however, was deepl) 
concerned with the relationship between nature writing and science, concern 

1 The Concord Sa l xterer 

which he expressed in both his attacks on "nature fakers" 31 and in his evaluation 
of Thoreau. On the one hand, he praised Thoreau as being so superior to other 
nature writers as to make them seem "tame and insipid" in comparison, but on the 
other hand, in an effort to be evenhanded. he claimed that "when we regard 
Thoreau simply as an observer or as a natural historian, there have been better, 
though few so industrious and persistent. ... He has added no new line, or touch to 
the portrait of bird or beast that I can recall — no important or significant fact to 
their lives. ... He had not the detective eye of the great naturalist: he did not catch 
the clues and hints dropped here and there." 32 This judgment now seems wrong, 
but in 1882 Burroughs was responding to what was in print of Thoreau' s work, 
which included very little of the Journal — only the first of Blake's four volumes 
of seasonal extracts. Burroughs probably assumed that this was an adequate 
sampling of what was not yet published. However, his reassessment of Thoreau in 
1922 does not seem very different on this point, although by then he had the whole 
of the 1906 Journal edited by Torrey and Allen to peruse. Apparently Burroughs 
saw nothing in it to change his negative opinion, which if anything was even 
stronger: "He did not have the philosophic mind, nor the scientific mind; he did 
not inquire into the reason of things, nor the meaning of things. . . . The scientific 
interpretation of things did not interest [Thoreau] at all." 33 

Burroughs' s evaluation was echoed by other commentators. In his Intro- 
duction to Thoreau' s Journal Torrey takes him to task for his lamentable igno- 
rance of the most common birds: "even in his later entries [he] leaves the present- 
day reader wondering how so eager a scholar could have spent so many years in 
learning so comparatively little." 34 Odell Shepard prefaced his 1927 selection of 
The Heart of Thoreau 's Journals with the comment that scientific observation had 
"overpowered" the poet in Thoreau, and his Journal records "a long struggle 
between the poet and the naturalist in him, and what looks like the poet's slow 
defeat." 35 In 1948, Joseph Wood Krutch published a particularly damning and 
widely circulated evaluation of Thoreau' s interest in science: "The completely 
unsystematic, almost desperately pointless character of his own quasi-scientific 
recordings is evidence enough that he did not really grasp what slight philosophi- 
cal implications the vast enterprise of collecting and cataloguing did have," 
showing that Thoreau thought science was no more than "the mere assembling of 
meaningless details." 36 

Against such a background, it is all the more remarkable that some 
ecologists were taking a second look at Thoreau. In 1942. limnologist-ecologist 
Edward S. Deevey. Jr. decided to compare the limnology of Walden Pond to that 
of glacial lakes which he had studied in Connecticut. By then ecologists were no 
longer worried about their professional credentials, and he did not hesitate to 
consult Thoreau' s Walden. Deevey realized that Thoreau' s observations on both 
the lake and its life were carefully made and perceptive. Deevey also consulted 
Thoreau' s Journal for additional relevant observations. In order to understand 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 11 

why Thoreaifs writings had nevertheless exerted no significant influence on the 
development of limnology and ecology, he also explored Thoreaifs well-known 
ambivalence toward science. Deevey concluded that Thoreau ranks with the other 
gifted amateurs who occasionally made solid contributions to science. Sir Thomas 
Browne and W. H. Hudson; and that Thoreau made the first notable American 
contribution to the fundamentally ecological science of limnology. 37 

Aldo Leopold may not have needed Deevey \s encouragement before 
reading Thoreau" s Journal, but he did adopt the same appreciative tone when, just 
five years later, he and Sara Elizabeth Jones called Thoreau "'the father of 
phenology in this country." 38 These evaluations by such prominent ecologists as 
Deevey and Leopold must have encouraged others to read Thoreau from an 
ecological perspective. Soon after. Kathryn Whitford studied Thoreau \s original 
investigations of forest succession, examining not only his 1860 address "The 
Succession of Forest Trees." but also observations in Thoreau' s Journal. These 
writings convinced her that death had cut short Thoreau' s genuine contributions to 
ecology, which had been overlooked and misunderstood because the observations 
which appeared "meaningless" to later commentators had not yet "found their 
places in subsequent lectures and writings"; furthermore, one must bear in mind 
that Thoreau "was working almost alone in this country. To a large extent he had 
to compile his own textbook in ecology." 39 Whitford easily persuaded her plant- 
ecologist husband to coauthor with her a general article. "Thoreau: Pioneer 
Ecologist and Conservationist" (1951). A minor flaw in their article is the claim 
that Thoreau had died without having read Darwin's Origin of Species*® but their 
main thrust was to present evidence to challenge the idea that Thoreau had been 
too ambivalent about science to make a positive contribution to ecology. 

How much weight should be given to the judgment of a few ecologists in 
the face of contrary judgments from Thoreau scholars? Leo Stoller looked into 
Leopold and Jones's claim that Thoreau was "the father of phenology in this 
country." and refuted it by tracing the American interest in phenology back to 
Jefferson. 41 In the same year. Charles Metzger argued both that Thoreau was fully 
scientific, and that he rejected science because of its limitations; although Metzger 
was more sympathetic to scientific perspectives, in the end he confirmed a sense 
of ambivalence about science. 42 Some years later, in an extremely influential 
article. Nina Baym examined Thoreau' s view of science and confirmed that 
Thoreau's obvious trend toward science was deeply undercut by his antiscientific 
bias, leading him in the end to turn "against his early pioneers" and go "back to his 
old naturalists, to whom 'gorgons and flying dragons were not incredible.'" 43 
Thus Stoller, Metzger. and Baym were all impressed by Thoreau's apparent 
intellectual dilemma. The incompatibility between transcendental philosophy, 
poetry, and aesthetics versus scientific objectivity seemed to lead Thoreau into the 
mere compilation of a useless and purposeless mass of notes. 

Before the publication of The Dispersion of Seeds, such a judgment 
seemed justified. In 1976. Egerton reluctantl\ agreed that Thoreau's place in 

12 The Concord Saunterer 

ecology was in the soon-to-be-outdated phenological tradition, and that Baym's 
interpretation was fundamentally accurate. Thoreau, it appeared, had attempted a 
synthesis between transcendentalism and science, but scientists' unwillingness to 
join him, and Thoreau' s own inability to forge such a synthesis, led to his deep 
hostility to science even as he was making increasingly scientific observations. 
What was more, Thoreau' s observations were within a conceptual framework that 
had to be overcome if ecology were to succeed as a science: "Where did phenol- 
ogy fit into the new science? Hardly at all. Phenology was one of the possibilities 
that naturalists seized as a basis for an ecological science, but it did not offer a rich 
enough program of investigation. Instead, therefore, ecology was founded upon 
phytogeography, limnology, and entomology. The secrets that eluded Thoreau 
were never discovered by anyone else." 44 

Nevertheless, Thoreau' s place in ecology was shortly to have a powerful 
advocate in Donald Worster, who made ambitious claims for Thoreau as an 
ecologist in his popular book on the origins and early history of ecology, Nature's 
Economy: The Roots of Ecology (1977), which had three beautifully written 
chapters on Thoreau. Worster' s approach offered a resolution to the conflict 
noticed by so many earlier commentators by defending the thesis that there are 
actually two traditions in ecology, both of which arose in the 1700s. "Arcadian" 
ecology, which he finds in the writings of the Anglican pastor Gilbert White, 
simply appreciates the intricate interlockings of nature and tries to bring human 
life into harmony with nature. On the other hand, "imperial" ecology, found in the 
writings of Carl Linnaeus and dating back to Francis Bacon, studies nature's 
interactions for the sake of controlling nature. In the mid- 1800s these two founders 
were replaced respectively by Thoreau and Darwin, each of whom provided an 
important written legacy for the further development of these two ecologies down 
to the present. 

This thesis seems to Egerton not to be supported by the evidence cited. 45 
Ecology has, like all sciences, rival theories and methodologies, and at times some 
ecologists sneer at what other ecologists do, but they have always played in the 
same ballpark. Worster' s ideas seem to come from outside ecology, and to reflect 
a broad range of tensions between science and larger culture endemic both to the 
nineteenth century and to our own day. For instance, a similar perspective is seen 
in Loren Eiseley, one of American's most prominent nature writers for several 
decades, and a likely source for Worster' s dichotomy. 46 In his popular and well- 
known work The Unexpected Universe (1969), Eiseley constrasts the "grim" 
scientific and experimental tradition of Bacon with the "more gracious, humane 
tradition" of White and Thoreau. Eiseley also compares Thoreau and Darwin, 
although his chapter did not specifically concern ecology. Eiseley did find some 
positive things to say about Darwin, but his sympathies, like Worster's, were clearly 
against the reductive, pessimistic, and dominating science attributed to Darwin, as 
opposed to a gentler, more holistic and harmonious science attributed to Thoreau. 47 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 13 

A related argument was advanced in 1 98 1 by Walter Harding in his essay 
on "Waldens Man of Science," in which he also discussed Thoreau's writings in 
relation to the science of ecology. Rather confusingly, Harding tells us that 
"scientists have . . . tended to look rather scoffingly at Henry Thoreau," yet all the 
scientists whom he cites took Thoreau quite seriously: the Harvard ornithologist 
Ludlow Griscom, the Harvard botanist Richard J. Eaton, the Yale limnologist 
Edmund Deevey, the Wisconsin naturalist Aldo Leopold. 48 Harding's citations in 
this essay are quite brief and one must turn to his and Michael Meyer's New 
Thoreau Handbook (1980) to find more ample citations to the scholarly literature 
on which he drew. 49 Here it appears that the scoffers to whom Harding referred 
were scientists earlier in this century who were still concerned with establishing 
the credibility of ecology as a science. Harding seems not to have used the Isis 
bibliographies on the history of science, which would have opened a far wider 
range of material to him, including both Egerton' s essay and Worster's book on 
the history of ecology. 

Clearly the assumptions written into such an imperialist/Arcadian di- 
chotomy have currency within our own day, for the dichotomy has in various 
forms achieved widespread acceptance. This could be seen as one manifestation 
of the continued hostility between the so-called "two cultures." The phrase was 
coined by C. P. Snow in 1959, 50 but the phenomenon traces back to nineteenth- 
century tensions quite relevant to Thoreau, tensions from which Worster draws to 
knit together his thesis. One was that between romantic, idealistic science and 
empirical science, seen on both sides of the Atlantic; the other was the tension 
between conservationists and preservationists, characteristic of America. 

Thoreau's connection with romantic, idealistic science is well docu- 
mented and requires little discussion here, beyond pointing out that recent work 
has somewhat complicated the picture. Thoreau's attention to the possibilities 
opened by detailed, empirical field research thrust him into the middle of a 
vigorous debate about proper methodology and the appropriate goals of science, a 
debate that can no longer be adequately understood by a simplistic opposition 
between humane, "romantic" and imperial, "positivist" science. 51 The upshot is 
that Thoreau's work contains elements of both perspectives; and the same can be 
said for the differences between conservationists and preservationists. The per- 
spectives, if not the terms, have been traced back to a conversation between Natty 
Bumppo and Judge Temple in James Fenimore Cooper's novel. The Pioneers 
( 1 823). 52 Conservationists advocate wise use of resources, while preservationists 
advocate preservation of the natural environment. Thoreau in The Dispersion of 
Seeds discusses the wise use of forest resources, whereas elsewhere in his later 
work, particularly in the essay "Huckleberries" (edited from Wild Fruits by Leo 
Stoller), he emphasizes instead the "preserving" of forests and landforms as "a 
common possession forever, for instruction and recreation." 5 ^ Clearly these 
perspectives need not be in opposition, since everyone acknowledges that some 

14 The Concord Saunterer 

lands have to be devoted to a harvesting of resources for humans to survive in their 
present numbers, while other lands, such as those in our modern national and state 
parks, can be retained in a relatively natural state. However, there is a tension in 
the implementation of these perspectives since there are often conflicts over the 
designation of particular pieces of land. But this tension never led to the emer- 
gence of different ecologies. 54 

In his overview of "Waldens Man of Science." Harding judged that the 
writings by and about Thoreau which he consulted established Thoreau as "our 
first major American ecologist." 55 Whether or not this is true probably depends 
on one's criteria for this honor. If European travelers in America qualify, then 
certainly Alexander von Humboldt deserves the honor, though his observations 
were almost entirely confined to Latin America and Harding probably had in mind 
only America north of Mexico. Within North America, Pehr Kalm, the Scandina- 
vian botanist and explorer, would have a good claim on the honor; but if one 
wanted to reserve it for an American citizen, then why not give it to America's 
premier naturalist of the eighteenth century, William Bartram? 

One reason might be that, unlike Bartram, Thoreau lived during the time 
when American science was undergoing a slow professionalization, a process 
which saw the earliest formalizations of the science of ecology itself in the work of 
Humboldt and Darwin, scientists to whom Thoreau was deeply indebted. His own 
awareness of that process can be seen, for example, in his prickly defense of his 
amateur status when completing a questionnaire for the American Association for 
the Advancement of Science. 56 Nevertheless, Thoreau' s friends, including 
Emerson, generally viewed him as a capable naturalist. He was considered enough 
of a scientist for his colleagues to elect him, in 1850, to the Boston Society of 
Natural History, and to appoint him, in 1859, to the Harvard Visiting Committee 
in Natural History, "charged with the annual evaluation of the college curricu- 
lum." 57 Buried in the unpublished manuscripts of this "amateur" naturalist were 
observations and conclusions about limnology, plant geography, forest succession 
and seed dispersal that, if published, would likely have brought his work to the 
respectful attention of Darwin himself, and of Darwin's American ally, the 
botanist Asa Gray. 

However, instead of seeing his studies linked with the theories of the 
mid-century* s most advanced natural scientists, Thoreau was indeed left to invent 
the nascent science of ecology for himself. In the process he worked through some 
of his superficial complaints about the deadliness of science by discovering for 
himself that abstract scientific data, such as on the rate of tree growth and on the 
burial of acorns by squirrels, can have both practical implications and poetic 
import. The relationship of humans to such data need not be how we respond to 
them personally, but how such data can help us to manage our environment to 
prevent its degradation. Such concern is everywhere present in Thoreau' s late 
essa) '"Hie Succession of Forest Trees" and the longer work from which it was 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 75 

distilled. The Dispersion of Seeds. Having discovered how he could make science 
relevant to his own concerns, salvaging and protecting the damaged forests and 
fields of Concord, Thoreau realized that he need not make a choice between poetry 
and science. He could use science to nourish his poetic soul and also to protect the 
natural environment which he loved. 

The new publication of Thoreau' s hitherto-unpublished manuscripts, 
both The Dispersion of Seeds and the forthcoming Wild Fruits, thus changes the 
once-standard conclusion that Thoreau's hostility to science undercut his achieve- 
ments in both poetry and in science. The first to sense the potential of Thoreau' s 
work in science were not the established Thoreau scholars, who generally perpetu- 
ated the notion of a Thoreau trapped and undercut by hostility to science: instead, 
it was ecologists themselves, scientists who in mid-century turned to Thoreau' s 
work from a fresh perspective. The figure who is emerging to view in the newly 
published manuscripts, and in the most recent critical studies of Thoreau, did after 
all find a way to ally poetry and science as one united whole, and in doing so 
moved beyond the old framework of phenology to pioneer the yet-unnamed 
science of ecology. Furthermore, this brief history of attitudes towards Thoreau' s 
science suggests that ecological perspectives offer a way to close the old two- 
culture divide by bringing scientists, literary theorists, and historians into a 
common field. The definitive treatise on Thoreau and ecology remains to be 
written. Whoever does so will help rediscover new ground on which to bring 
poetry and science, passionate precision and inclusive vision, together. 58 


Frank N. Egerton. "Ecological Studies and Observations before 1900." in Issues and 
Ideas in America, ed. Benjamin J. Taylor and Thurman J. White (Norman: Univ. of 
Oklahoma Press. 1976). 311-51: reprinted in Frank N. Egerton. ed.. History of 
American Ecology (New York: Arno Press. 1977). 31 1-51. 

A complete list of studies relevant to Thoreau and science would run to several pages. 
Studies relating specifically to Thoreau and ecology which were available to guide 
Egerton's discussion in 1976 include, in chronological order: Edward S. Deevey. Jr.. 
"A Re-examination of Thoreau's Walden." Quarterly Review of Biology 17 ( 1942): 1- 
1 1 : Kathryn Whitford, "Thoreau and the Woodlots of Concord." New England Quar- 
terly 23 (1950): 291-306: Philip Whitford and Kathryn Whitford, "Thoreau: Pioneer 
Ecologist and Conservationist." Scientific Monthly 73 (1951): 291-96: Charles R. 
Metzger, "Thoreau on Science." Annals of Science 12 (1956): 206-1 1 : Leo Stoller. "A 
Note on Thoreau's Place in the History of Phenology," /sis 47 ( 1956): 172-81: Stoller. 
After Walden: Thoreau's Changing Mews on Economic Man (Stanford: Stanford 
Univ. Press. 1957): Sherman Paul. The Shores of America: Thoreau's Inward Explo- 
ration (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press. 1958): Nina Bavin. "Thoreau's View of 
Science." Journal of the History oj Ideas 26 ( 1965): 221-34; John Aldrich Christie. 

16 The Concord Saunterer 

Thoreau as World Traveler (New York: Columbia Univ. Press and American Geo- 
graphical Society. 1965): Kichung Kim. "Thoreau" s Science and Teleology." ESQ 18 
(1972): 125-33: James Mcintosh. Thoreau as Romantic Naturalist: His Shifting 
Stance toward Nature (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. 1974). 

Some notable recent studies after 1976 include, in chronological order: Donald 
Worster. Nature 's Economy: The Roots of Ecology (San Francisco: Sierra Club. 1977: 
reprinted. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1985): Robert Sattelmeyer. "Introduc- 
tion" to The Natural History Essays by Henry David Thoreau (Salt Lake City: 
Peregrine Smith. 1980). vii-xxxiv: Walter Harding. "Walden's Man of Science." 
Virginia Quarterly Review 57 ( 198 1 ): 45-61 : William Howarth. The Book of Concord: 
Thoreau' s Life as a Writer (New York: Viking. 1982): Kurt Kehr. "Walden Three: 
Ecological Changes in the Landscape of Henry David Thoreau." Journal of Forest 
History 27 (Jan. 1983): 28-33: John Hildebidle. Thoreau: A Naturalist's Liberty 
(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 1983): Robert D. Richardson. Jr.. Henry David 
Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. 1986): Gordon G. 
Whitney and William C. Davis. "From Primitive Woods to Cultivated Woodlots: 
Thoreau and the Forest History of Concord. Massachusetts." Journal of Forest His- 
tory 30 (April 1986): 70-81: Richard J. Schneider. Henry David Thoreau (Boston: 
Twayne. 1987): Joan Burbick, Thoreau' s Alternative History: Changing Perspectives 
on Nature, Culture, and Language (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. 1987): 
Stephen Adams and Donald Ross. Jr.. Revising Mythologies: The Composition of 
Thoreau's Major Works (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia. 1988): William 
Rossi. "Roots. Leaves, and Method: Henry Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural 
Science." Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas 19 (1988): 1-22: 
Robert Sattelmeyer. Thoreau 's Reading: A Study in Intellectual Histoi-y with Biblio- 
graphical Catalogue (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. 1988): Robert D. Richardson. 
Jr.. "Thoreau and Science." in American Literature and Science, ed. Robert J. Scholnick 
(Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky. 1992). 110-27: Richard Grusin. "Thoreau. 
Extravagance, and the Economy of Nature." American Literary Histoiy 5 (Spring 
1993): 30-50: Gary Paul Nabhan. "Learning the Language of Fields and Forests." 
Foreword to Faith in a Seed, xi-xviii: Robert D. Richardson. Jr.. "Thoreau's Broken 
Task." Introductionto Faith in a Seed. 3-17: William Rossi. "Thoreau as a Philosophi- 
cal Naturalist-Writer." in Thoreau 's World and Ours: A Natural Legacy, ed. Edmund 
A. Schofield and Robert C. Baron (Golden. Colo.: North American. 1993). 64-73; A. 
Hunter Dupree. "Thoreau as Scientist: American Science in the 1850s." in Thoreau's 
World and Ours. 42-47: Robert Sattelmeyer. "The Coleridgean Influence on Thoreau's 
Science." in Thoreau's World and Ours. 48-54: Laura Dassow Walls. "Seeing New 
Worlds: Thoreau and Humboldtian Science." in Thoreau's World and Ours. 55-63: 
Lawrence Buell. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau. Nature Writing, and the 
Formation of American Culture (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 1995): Buell. 
"Thoreau and the Natural Environment," in The Cambridge Companion to Henry 
David Thoreau. ed. Joel Myerson (Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge 
Univ. Press. 1995). 171-93: Ronald Wesley Hoag. "Thoreau's Later Natural History 
Writings." in The Cambridge Companion. 152-70: Laura Dassow Walls. Seeing New- 
Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science (Madison: 
Wisconsin Univ. Press. 1995): David M. Robinson. "Thoreau's 'Walking' and the 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 17 

Ecological Imperative," in Approaches to Teaching Thoreau 's Walden and Other 
Works, ed. Richard J. Schneider (New York: MLA, 1996). 169-74; Michael Berger, 
"Henry David Thoreau' s Science in The Dispersion of Seeds" Annals of Science 53 
(July 1996): 381-97; Berger, "The Saunterer's Vision: Henry Thoreau's Epiphany of 
Forest Dynamics in The Dispersion of Seeds" Concord Saunterer n.s. 4 (Fall 1996): 
45-71; Robert Kuhn McGregor, A Wider View of the Universe: Henry Thoreau 's 
Study of Nature (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1997). For further listings, see Walter 
Harding and Michael Meyer. The New Thoreau Handbook (New York: New York 
Univ. Press, 1980), 152-54; also the extensive notes in Michael Berger, "The Saunterer' s 

3 Henry David Thoreau, Faith in a Seed: The Dispersion of Seeds and Other Late 
Natural History Writings, ed. Bradley P. Dean (Washington, D.C.: Island Press. 

4 Frank N. Egerton, "The History and Present Entanglements of Some General Ecologi- 
cal Perspectives," in Humans as Components of Ecosystems, ed. Mark J. McDonald 
and S. T. A. Pickett (New York: Springer- Verlag, 1993), 9-23. For a right-wing 
discussion of "ecology" primarily as a political and environmental movement, see 
Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the Twentieth Century: A History (New Haven: Yale 
Univ. Press, 1989). 

5 Frank N. Egerton, "Changing Concepts of the Balance of Nature," Quarterly Review 
of Biology 48 (1973): 322-50. 

6 Carl Linnaeus, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Natural History, Husbandry, and 
Physic (tr. by Benjamin Stillingfleet; Ed. 2, London: R. and J. Dodsley. 1762; 
reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1977); Egerton, "Ecological Studies," 338-39, 323. 

7 Egerton. "Ecological Studies," 318-19. 

8 Peter J. Bowler, The Norton History of the Environmental Sciences (New York: 
Norton, 1992, 1993), 205-1 1. See also Malcolm Nicolson. "Alexander von Humboldt. 
Humboldtian Science, and the Origins of the Study of Vegetation," History of Science 
25 (1987): 167-94, and "Alexander von Humboldt and the Geography of Vegetation," 
in Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine, eds., Romanticism and the Sciences 
(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), 169-85. 

9 Thoreau is known to have read Linnaeus, Amoenitates academicae; sen dissertationes 
variae, physicae, medicae, botanicae. Antehac seorsim editae nunc collectae et auctae 
cum tabulis aeniis (7 vols. Holmiae: fn.p.], 1749-69: Select Dissertations from the 
Amoenitates Academica, tr. F. J. Brand; London: G. Robinson and S. J. Robson. 1781, 
repr. New York: Arno Press, 1977); Caroli Linnaei . . . Philosophia botanica, in qua 
explicantur fundamenta botanica cum definitionibus partium, exemplis terminorum, 
observationibus, rariorum, adjectis figuris aeniis. Edition altera (Viennae Austriae: 
typis J. T. Trottner, 1763); and Lachesis lapponica; or, A tour of Lapland, now first 
published from the original manuscript journal of Linnaeus; by James Edward Smith 
(London: White and Cochrane, 1811). See Robert Sattelmeyer. Thoreau' s Reading. 

10 Of Humboldt's works, Thoreau read Cosmos: a Sketch of a Physical Description of 
the Universe (vols. 1-2, tr. E. C. Otte: London: Henry G. Bonn. 1849); Views of 
Nature; or, Contemplations on the Sublime Phenomena of Creation (tr. E. C. Otte and 
Henry G. Bohn; London: Henry G. Bohn. 1850); and Personal Narrative of Travels to 

18 The Concord Saunterer 

the Equinoctial Regions of America, during the Years 1 799-1804 (tr. Thomasina Ross; 
3 vols., London: H. G. Bohn, 1852). See Sattelmeyer. Thoreau's Reading, 206-7; 
Walls, Seeing New Worlds, 1 19-21, 267n.7. 267n.8. 

1 1 Of Darwin' s works, Thoreau read Journal of Researches into the Natural History and 
Geology of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the 
World, under the Command of C apt. Fitz Roy, R.N. (2 vols; New York: Harper and 
Brothers, 1846); and On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the 
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: D. Appleton, 
1860, or London: John Murray, 1859). See Sattelmeyer, Thoreau 's Reading, 162-63. 
On the significance of Darwin's Journal for Thoreau, see Christie, Thoreau as World 
Traveler, 74-81 et passim; Hildebidle, A Naturalist's Liberty, 40-47. 

12 Wilfrid Blunt, The Compleat Naturalist: A Life of Linnaeus (New York: Viking, 
1971); Jean-Marc Drouin, Reinventer la nature: L'ecologie et son histoire (Paris: 
Desclee de Brouwer, 1991), 34-35 et passim; Sten Lindroth, "Carl Linnaeus (or von 
Linne)," Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York: Scribner, 1973), 8:374-81. 

1 3 Pehr Kalm, Travels into North America: containing its natural history, and a circum- 
stantial account of its plantations and agriculture in general, with the civil, ecclesias- 
tical and commercial state of the country, the manners of the inhabitants, several 
curious and important remarks on various subjects. . . . (tr. John Reinhold Forster; 3 
vols.. Warrington: William Eyres, 1770-71). See also Egerton, "Ecological Studies," 

14 John Aldrich Christie, Thoreau as World Traveler; Frank N. Egerton, "Humboldt, 
Darwin, and Population," Journal of the History of Biology 3 (1970): 325-60; Laura 
Dassow Walls, "Seeing New Worlds: Thoreau and Humboldtian Science," and Seeing 
New Worlds: Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science. 

15 Henry David Thoreau, Early Essays and Miscellanies, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer, 
Edwin Moser, and Alexander C. Kern (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1975), 3, 
with notes on 333-34. 

16 Thoreau, Early Essays, 26-36, with notes on 343-44; 26. 

17 Sattelmeyer, Thoreau s Reading, 205. 

18 Reprinted as vols. 5-8 in the Riverside edition of Thoreau's works: The Writings of 
Henry David Thoreau, 1 1 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893-94). 

19 The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen (14 
vols. Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1906); reprinted in 2 vols, with Foreword by Walter 
Harding (New York: Dover, 1962); Harding identifies two omissions in his Foreword 
to the two-volume Dover reprint. 

20 Thoreau, Journal, various editors (5 vols, to date; Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 
1981- ). 

21 Sharon Cameron, Writing Nature: Henry Thoreau's Journal (New York: Oxford 
Univ. Press, 1985), ch. 1. 

22 Thoreau, Journal [Princeton edition], 4:296; January 27, 1852. 

23 Reprinted in Natural History Essays, ed. Robert Sattelmeyer, 72-92. 

24 Faith in a Seed; for the relationship between the 1 860 address and The Dispersion of 
Seeds, see Hildebidle, Thoreau: A Naturalist's Liberty, 62-66, 70. 

25 For a powerful and detailed new interpretation of Thoreau's ecological science in 
these late works, and of the ways in which Thoreau's new approach shows how 

Frank N. Egerton and Laura Dassow Walls 19 

"science and literature can cooperate, serve, and correct each other," see Michael 
Berger, "Henry David Thoreau's Science in The Dispersion of Seeds' and "The 
Saunterer's Vision: Henry Thoreau's Epiphany of Forest Dynamics in The Dispersion 
of Seeds" 52. 

26 Wild Fruits is partly reprinted by Dean in Faith in a Seed, 177-203. Dean is currently 
editing the full text of Wild Fruits for publication (New York: Norton, forthcoming). 
Hildebidle argues that Thoreau's later writings in general are less dominated by his 
personality than are his earlier writings; see Thoreau: A Naturalist's Liberty, 62-66, 

27 Thoreau, Journal, June 1851; see 1906 edition, 2:228, 240-48, 261-64; Princeton 
edition, 3:244-45, 253-59, 269-71. 

28 Egerton, "Ecological Studies," 339. 

29 Frank N. Egerton, "The History of Ecology: Achievements and Opportunities, Parts I 
and II" (Journal of the History of Biology 16 [1983]: 259-31 1; 18 [1985]: 103-43); 
Robert P. Mcintosh, The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory (New York: 
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), ch. 1-2. 

30 James M. Clarke, The Life and Adventures of John Muir (n.p.: The Word Shop, 1 979), 
272; Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 3d ed.(New Haven: Yale 
Univ. Press, 1982), ch. 1-2. 

31 Burroughs mistakenly placed Ernest Thompson Seton in this category until Seton 
produced field notes to support his writings. Betty Keller, Black Wolf: The Life of 
Ernest Thompson Seton (Vancouver: Douglas and Mclntyre, 1984), 153-59. See also 
Edward J. Renehan, Jr., John Burroughs: An American Naturalist (Post Mills, Ver- 
mont: Chelsea Green, 1992), 331-33. 

32 John Burroughs, "Henry D. Thoreau," Century Magazine n.s. 2 ( 1 882): 368-79; 377- 

33 John Burroughs, The Last Harvest (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922), 122. 

34 Bradford Torrey, "Introduction," The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, 1 :xliii. 

35 Odell Shephard, The Heart of Thoreau's Journals (Boston and New York: Houghton 
Mifflin, 1927), ix; quoted in Kathryn Whitford, "Thoreau and the Woodlots of 
Concord," New England Quarterly, 23 (1950): 291-306, 292. 

36 Joseph Wood Krutch, Henry David Thoreau (1948; New York: William Morrow, 
1974), 182. 

37 Edward S. Deevey, Jr., "A Re-examination of Thoreau's Walden" 10. 

38 Aldo Leopold and Sara Elizabeth Jones, "A Phenological Record of Sauk and Dane 
Counties, Wisconsin, 1935-1945," Ecological Monographs 17 (1947): 81-122, 83. 

39 Whitford, "Thoreau and the Woodlots of Concord," 306. 

40 Philip Whitford and Kathryn Whitford, "Thoreau: Pioneer Ecologist and Conserva- 
tionist." Scientific Monthly 73 (1951): 291-96, 291. 

41 Leo Stoller, "A Note on Thoreau's Place in the History of Phenology."' 

42 Charles R. Metzger, "Thoreau on Science." 

43 Nina Baym, "Thoreau's View of Science," Journal of the History of Ideas 26 (1965): 

44 Egerton, "Ecological Studies," 331, 332. 

45 See Frank N. Egerton, Rev. of Donald Worster, Nature's Economy, Isis 70 ( 1979): 

20 The Concord Saunterer 

46 See Andrew J. Angyal, Loren Eiseley (Boston: Twayne, 1983); Ervin F. Carlisle, 
Loren Eiseley: The Development of a Writer (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1983). 

47 Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 
1969), ch. 6. 

48 In addition to other works already cited, see Ludlow Griscom, Birds of Concord: A 
Study in Population Trends (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1949); Richard J. 
Eaton, A Flora of Concord: an account of the flowering plants, ferns, and fern-allies 
known to have occurred without cultivation in Concord, Massachusetts from Thoreau's 
time to the present day (Cambridge: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard 
University, 1974). 

49 Walter Harding, "Walden's Man of Science," 45-46; Walter Harding and Michael 
Meyer, The New Thoreau Handbook, 152-54. 

50 C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and a Second Look (Cambridge [England]; New York: 
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1959, 1964). 

51 In addition to sources already cited, see William Rossi, "Roots, Leaves, and Method: 
Henry Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science," and "Thoreau as Philo- 
sophical Naturalist- Writer" (Thoreau's World and Ours, 64-73); also Robert 
Sattelmeyer, "The Coleridgean Influence on Thoreau's Science" (Thoreau's World 
and Ours, 48-54); Sattelmeyer and Richard A. Hocks, "Thoreau and Coleridge's 
Theory of Life," Studies in the American Renaissance, 1985, ed. Joel Myerson 
(Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1985), 269-84; and Walls's response in 
Seeing New Worlds, particularly ch. 2 and 1 19-21. 

52 Nelson Van Valen, "James Fenimore Cooper and the Conservation Schism," New 
York History 62 (1981): 289-306. 

53 Thoreau, Faith in a Seed, 170-73; Natural History Essays, 259. 

54 For a recent discussion of ecology and the environmental movement, including a 
nuanced discussion of the various positions taken by ecologists, see Peter Bowler, The 
Norton History 1 of Environmental Sciences, ch. 11-12. 

55 Harding, "Waldens Man of Science," 56. 

56 Thoreau, Journal [Princeton edition], 5:469-70; March 5, 1853. 

57 See Richardson, "Thoreau and Science," 123. 

58 Whoever undertakes the definitive treatise on Thoreau and ecology will want to use 
the valuable guides to Thoreau's travels by Robert F. Stowell and William L. Howarth 
(A Thoreau Gazetteer; Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970); to his plant names by 
Ray Angelo (Botanical Index to the Journal of Henry David Thoreau; Salt Lake City: 
Peregrine Smith, 1984); and to his Concord birds by Griscom (note 48). Studies on the 
ecology of the Concord and Walden Pond areas in Thoreau's Legacy and Ours 
provide additional background for such a treatise. 

Seasons Blending 

Waterlow Park, North London 

Photo by Madeleine Minson 

In Search of Spring and J ail: 
Anticipation of Seasons in ^fioreau s Journal 

Madeleine Minson 

May 10th 52 
This monday [sic] the streets are full of cattle being driven up country cows & 
calves — and colts. The rain is making the grass grow apace — It appears to stand 
upright — its blades and you can almost see it grow. For some reason I now 
remember the autumn — the succory & the golden-rod. We remember autumn to 
best advantage in the spring — the finest aroma of it reaches us then. 

Thoreau's ever more empirical interest in natural detail during the 1850s 
went hand in hand with an impassioned and rapidly expanding interest in every 
aspect of the seasons; their promise, arrival, peak and maturity as well as their 
weather-ruled daily variations. Although much of this journal material amounts to 
little more than straightforward recording of seasonal phenomena in line with 
naturalist tradition, a significant part of Thoreau's observations has a far deeper 
resonance. I am thinking in particular of his habit of anticipating each season long 
in advance, or indeed of looking back to seasons past, memory and anticipation 
blending in the dream of the ideal other. With a highly emotional kind of 
restlessness, triggered by the sights and sounds of particular phenomena in nature, 
Thoreau is ever-ready to stray in thought from the season at hand. Perhaps the 
essence of a season is best caught in its absence; why else would "We remember 
autumn to best advantage in the spring." as he put it in May 1852? A gleam from 
the dark side of the year is often far more potent than any present season, however 
bright, and such gleams keep overtaking Thoreau, especially during the mid- 
1850s. While discussing Thoreau's life in 1852 in The Shores of America, 
Sherman Paul notes his tendency to anticipate a season long before it happens (any 
season, that is, not just the predictable spring): "Just as Thoreau had looked with 
increasing eagerness for the signs of spring in winter, so now, by July, he was 
looking for the signs of autumn in summer." 2 H. Daniel Peck also draws attention 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

24 The Cos cord Salxterer 

to this habit in his discussion of Thoreau's observation of ''first facts" of the 
seasons and his "restructuring" of the calendar year in chapter four of Thoreau 's 
Morning Work, but neither Paul nor Peck investigates in detail the rich implica- 
tions of Thoreau" s seasonal anticipation. I would suggest that such an investiga- 
tion is vital for an understanding of the mid- 1850s journal and that it has much to 
tell us about the volatile and complex nature of Thoreau' s optimism in general. 
By tracing the life of nature as it unfolds in the space between the present and the 
future. Thoreau simultaneously locates his own life in the fertile ground between 
contentment and discontent, or indeed between acceptance and hope, feeding. I 
think, off both. 

Thoreau' s inclination to anticipate, to lift himself if ever so slightly from 
the here and now. is in some ways at odds with his emphatic longing to live in the 
present. This urge is forcefully expressed in Walden, which was approaching its 
final form during this period and is strewn with statements about the importance of 
realizing the beauty of the world at hand: 

Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, 
before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and 
sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God 
himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the 
lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and 
noble onlv bv the perpetual instilling and drenching of the realitv that surrounds 

There is little sign of Thoreau' s impatience with the present in a passage such as 
this (except perhaps in his longing for it to be lived at a near unobtainable peak of 
intensity), and Walden is rich in comments of this kind; comments which locate 
the available moment as the very apex of dreams. In '"Spring" for example. 
Thoreau emphasizes this moment's value in a similar way. using imagery of the 
seasons to bring home his point: "We should be blessed if we lived in the present 
always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us. like the grass which 
confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it. . . . We loiter in winter 
while it is already spring" (Walden. 314). Although Thoreau's affirmation of the 
present finds eloquent expression in Walden passages such as these, they still 
amount to rhetorical statements of aim and intent rather than records of his actual 
experiences. For such a record we have to look to the journal, a much more 
immediate (as less drafted and processed) text, untainted by the pressures of 
publication. Granting him the space to describe the cycle of the seasons and his 
own evolving life at his leisure, the journal gradually emerged as Thoreau's main 
vehicle of expression, well suited to his 1850s ambitions, and indeed enabling 
them in a crucial way. In the all-embracing journal, celebration of the present takes 
concrete form in the description of intensely experienced moments, instances of rare 

Madeleine Minson 25 

beauty which are all the more striking because they are surrounded by material of 
a plainer kind. In these moments, Thoreau tends to feel quietly attuned to nature 
and contented with just being, if still not quite beyond restlessness, as I will show. 
One such moment (among many) occurs in Thoreau' s account of an 
evening on the river in June 1852. There is nothing particularly grand or unusual 
about this evening's experience, and his intention with the entry seems to be quite 
simply to preserve an impression of it, caught by the angular strokes of a rather 
random set of sentences. The sustained use of the present tense creates a (more or 
less trustworthy) sense of immediacy: 

It is candlelight, the fishes leap — The meadows sparkle with the coppery light of 
fire-flies. The evening star multiplied by undulating water is like bright sparks of 
fire continually ascending. The reflections of the trees are grandly indistinct. 
There is a low mist slightly enlarging the river — through which the arches of the 
stone bridge are just visible — as a vision. The mist is singularly bounded — 
collected here — while there is none there — close up to the bridge on one side & 
none on the other — depending apparently on currents of air. A dew in the air it 
is — which in time will wet you through. See stars reflected in the bottom of our 
boat it being 1/4 full of water. 

There is a low crescent of Northern light. — & shooting stars from time to 
time — (we go only from Channings to the ash above the RR.) I paddle with a 
bough the Nile boatman's oar — which is rightly pliant & you do not labor much. 
Some dogs bay. A sultry night. (Journal 5, 101-2) 

There is a curious tension between impulses towards objectivity and imaginative 
transformation in this apparently unified passage. The initial matter-of-fact 
statements are swept aside by the extravagant image of the continually ascending 
sparks of the evening star and the mistily sublime river impressions which follow 
("as a vision"), only to be reintroduced by the highly rational comments about the 
exact cause of the location of the mist (and indeed of stars being reflected in the 
bottom of the boat, "it being a quarter full of water"). If the objective voice used 
here denotes enlightened interest in the moment and thus a willingness to accept it 
as it is, the concurrent creative transformation of it indicates a degree of dissatis- 
faction; an urge to make the present seem different and more splendid. 4 

Thoreau' s journal descriptions of moments of deep involvement with the 
present are often affected by a creative restlessness which transports him far from 
the current time and place, and his statements of explicit impatience with the 
present season provide a way of articulating this discontent. The seasonal material 
in the journal often suggests longing for something other than the present: its firm 
emphasis on anticipation is sharply at odds with the dream of being satisfied with 
the day at hand. In the middle of a hot and dry July 1854, in which "Plants are 
curled and withered" and "leaves dry, ripe like the berries," Thoreau complains 

26 The Concord Saunterer 

that "The season is trivial as noon/' 5 implying in unambiguous terms (and in this 
case with good reason) that he is longing for release. Thoreau often finds summer, 
a season of relative stasis, especially difficult to be satisfied with, looking for signs 
of fall at least from the start of July. During the summer of 1852 he begins to 
formulate a theory to explain his weariness with this time of the year, writing at the 
beginning of August about the way the year grows old after a certain point, which 
he locates midway through the summer when our attention tends to shift to the 
following season: "Methinks we do ourselves at any rate some what tire of the 
season — & observe less attentively and with less interest the opening of new 
flowers — and the song of the birds — It is the signs of the fall that affect us most. 
It is hard to live in the summer content with it" {Journal 5, 282). Familiarity can 
quite naturally dampen interest, but Thoreau' s problem with contentment does not 
depend only on the appearance of the season at hand. It springs at least partly from 
the fact that the thrill of imagining an absent season is often much greater than that 
of loving the present one, as indeed the thought of the ideal so easily overshadows 
the actual. Thoreau implies as much both in the above passage and when he is 
intrigued by the subtle ways in which the excitement of memory works while 
studying the evidence of spring in April 1854: "In the brook there is the least 
possible springing yet. A little yellow lily in the ditch and sweet flag starting in the 
brook. I was sitting on the rail over the brook, when I heard something which 
reminded me of the song of the robin in rainy days in past springs. Why is it that 
not the note itself, but something which reminds me of it, should affect me most? 
— the ideal instead of the actual" {Journal VI, 1 82). This suggestive sound readily 
revitalizes the alluring space between the experienced and the expected, preparing 
him for further life by making him more receptive to the past. 

In early January 1853. midwinter of the year, the examination of a 
crowfoot bud leads to an impassioned (and even religiously reverential) entry 
which catches the excitement of anticipation as such, and over and beyond that, of 
anticipation as hope. -No contentment could equal the fairness and resonance of 
the promise this flower holds, still tightly folded up among its unexpanded leaves: 

The leaves of the crowfoot also are quite green & carry me forward to spring. I 
dig one up with a stick, and pulling it to pieces I find deep in the centre of the 
plant just beneath the ground — surrounded by all the tender leaves that are to 
precede it — the blossom bud about half as big as the head of a pin — perfectly 
white (?) — I open one next day & it is yellow There it patiently sits — or 
slumbers how full of faith — informed of a spring which the world has never 
seen — the promise & prophesy of it shaped some-what like some eastern temples 
in which a bud shaped dome o'er tops the whole — it affected me this tender dome 
like bud. within the bosom of the earth — like a temple upon the earth — resound- 
ing with the worship of votaries — Methought I saw the priests in yellow robes 
within it. 

Madeleine Minson 27 

The crowfoot buds — And how many beside! — lie unexpanded just beneath 
the surface. May I lead my life the following year as innocently as they — May it 
be as fair and smell as sweet. I anticipate nature. Destined to become a fair yellow 
flower above the surface to delight the eyes of children & its maker. (Journal 5. 

The step from objective examination to promise-laden play is here short indeed. A 
tiny bud such as this naturally leads the thoughts to spring, but Thoreau reinvigo- 
rates this well-worn symbol by his carefully worked out comparison of it to an 
Eastern temple, complete with yellow-robed votaries. The sheer rhapsodic energy 
this bud-centered dream induces gives an idea of the power the very smallest 
triggers of anticipation have over Thoreau. They are readily capable of renovating 
his mind and making it blossom in an instant, thrilled into life by the suggestion of 
a future. 

In this context, the actual arrival of spring is almost irrelevant, more 
likely to pale the heat of promise than bring about its realization. As Thoreau puts 
it after a lengthy passage concerned with spring happening (which takes the usual 
form of noting the opening of flowers) in May 1854: 

We soon get through with Nature. She excites an expectation she cannot satisfy. 
The merest child which has rambled into a copsewood dreams of a wilderness so 
wild and strange and inexhaustible as Nature can never show him. . . . That forest 
on whose skirts the red-bird flits is not of earth. I expected a fauna more infinite 
and various, birds of more dazzling colors and more celestial song. How many 
springs shall I continue to see the common sucker {Catostomus Bostoniensis) 
floating dead on our river! (Journal VI, 293-94) 

Tracing the arrival of spring here goes hand in hand with an acute awareness of the 
unlikelihood that spring-induced hopes will find satisfaction. The image of the 
dead suckers, the inclusion of their Latin name locating them firmly as part of the 
'"ordinary." empirically knowable world, effectively brings home the contrast 
between Thoreau' s surroundings and the splendid landscape of his dreams. In 
light of the fact that he so successfully made it his mission to know and appreciate 
the world around him, his disenchantment with his environment is perhaps unex- 
pectedly severe, but the sentiment is by no means unusual in the journal; Thoreau \s 
love of the near and close was suffused with impatience. With one eye on the 
ground and the other bound for the stars, Thoreau was well and truly divided, at 
least part of his heart aching for a beauty no earthly prospects could muster. The 
beauty at hand might only remind him of what he is missing, as in this entry from 
October 1850 in which the sight of a sacredly golden-lit pine grove fails to stop his 
mind from straying from it: "Looking through a stately pine-grove I saw the 
western sun falling in golden streams through its aisles — Its west side opposite to 

28 The Concord Saunterer 

me was all lit up with golden light; but what was I to it? — Such sights remind me 
of houses which we never inhabit. — that commonly I am not at home in the world. 
I see somewhat fairer than I enjoy or possess[.]" 6 Seeing "somewhat fairer" than 
he enjoys or possesses, Thoreau's vision not only departs from the actual land- 
scape but actively creates its own world, often (if perhaps not in this instance) a 
few degrees warmer and more hopeful than there is good reason or grounding for. 
There is thus an acute mismatch between his interpretation and the scene at hand; 
a chasm opens on the encounter with beauty or other signs of promise. 7 

Thoreau's dreamy otherworldliness is often activated by the same kind 
of triggers which lead him to think of other seasons. All kinds of sensory 
impression affect him but few more potently than sounds; music, bird song, the 
sound of crickets and of his much beloved telegraph harp. 8 These readily induce a 
sense of infinity or transcendence, directing him away from the actual with 
unparalleled force. In August 1852 for example, the sound of distant piano music 
completely transforms his surroundings, a transformation figured (parodically or 
not) by the use of chivalric imagery: "A thrumming of piano strings beyond the 
gardens & through the elms — at length the melody steals into my being — . . . . 
This is no longer the dull earth on which I stood — It is possible to live a grander 
life here — already the steed is stamping — the knights are prancing — Already our 
thoughts bid a proud farewell to the so-called actual life & its humble glories — " 
(Journal 5, 272). In a rapturous longer passage on sounds in general in December 
1853, Thoreau describes how they remind him of his immortality and even 
liberate him from his body and its surroundings: "I get the value of the earth's 
extent and the sky's depth. ... I leave my body in a trance and accompany the 
zephyr and the fragrance" (Journal VI, 40). At other times he considers such 
release from the actual in temporal terms, as a liberation from the present season 
and perhaps even from time itself. In May 1853 and 1854, the sound of crickets 
transports him rapidly through the seasons to come, towards infinity. On May 15, 
1853, he writes: "With -this elixir I see clear through the summer now to autumn, 
and any summer work seems frivolous. ... At one leap I go from the just opened 
buttercup to the life-everlasting. This singer has antedated autumn. His strain is 
superior (inferior?) to seasons. It annihilates time and space; the summer is for 
time-servers" (Journal V, 158). This is anticipation of seasons at its most 
ecstatically extreme, its vertiginous associations summed up by the description of 
the shift "from the just opened buttercup to the life-everlasting"; a shift straight 
out of time. Thoreau's thoughts on the crickets in May 1854 are uncannily similar, 
picking up the thread where he left it the previous year by stressing the timeless- 
ness of their sound. The song of a cricket now "suggests a wisdom mature, never 
late, being above all temporal considerations, which possesses the coolness and 
maturity of autumn amidst the aspiration of spring and the heats of summer" 
(Journal VI, 290); Thoreau remains consistent in his response. This consistency, 
moreover, is central to his anticipation of seasons in general, which is subject to a 

Madeleine Minson 29 

good deal of repetition and orderly thinking and vitally dependent on the gradual 
accumulation of knowledge. Thoreau needed to know nature intimately to be able 
to inhabit the evolving year in any true sense. 

His entries on the seasons directly reflect the need for this deep knowl- 
edge, frequently comparing this year's observations with those of former years. 
There would indeed be no anticipation without memory as we can only know what 
we are seeking through our knowledge of the past, previous experience serving as 
the mold for future expectation. 9 Thoreau' s anticipations of seasons are move- 
ments simultaneously back and forward in thought, sometimes explicitly so as in 
this comment on the catnep in May 1852: "There is something in its fragrance as 
soothing as balm to a sick man. It advances me even to the autumn and beyond it. 
How full of reminiscence is any fragrance — " {Journal 5, 39; my emphasis). 
Advanced by a reminiscence, Thoreau shuttles between the known and the un- 
known, his premonition of autumn sparked somewhere in the interval between 
them. Many of his anticipation entries testify to this double bind, most often rather 
subtly through the inclusion of words such as "reminds" or "reminiscence" in a 
forward-looking context (for example, "The sight of the masses of yellow hastate 
leaves and flower-buds of the yellow lily, already four or six inches long, at the 
bottom of the river, reminds me that nature is prepared for an infinity of springs 
yet" [Journal VII, 71; my emphasis]). 10 Some entries even make the distinction 
between past and future seem irrelevant, as when Thoreau contemplates pitcher- 
plant leaves in March "whose fragrance when bruised" carries him "back or 
forward to an incredible season" (Journal VI, 149). Neither the destination nor the 
way there really matters here and the general vagueness of the passage all the more 
effectively conveys the excitement of the moment of transport. 

The most notable thing about Thoreau' s anticipation of seasons is per- 
haps his sheer devotion to the practice in the mid- 1 850s; the fact that he is so likely 
to be moved by intimations of the absent during these years. He is continually 
energized by these small encounters, as with buds in autumn which lead his mind 
to spring even more powerfully than when they are actually expected. In autumn 
1853, Thoreau frequently notices such unusually early budding. As soon as the 
last leaves have fallen, renewal is ready and waiting: "Now that the leaves are off, 
I begin to notice the buds of various forms and color and more or less conspicuous, 
prepared for another season, — partly, too, perhaps, for food for birds" (Journal V. 
455 [October 26]). And a few days later even leafing is seen to occur, a 
phenomenon he describes as both extraordinary and familiar; it anticipates nature 
in a wonderful but also regular way, exactly as he knows it did last year: "While 
getting the azaleas, I notice the shad-bush conspicuously leafing out. Those long, 
narrow, pointed buds, prepared for next spring, have anticipated their time. I 
noticed something similar when surveying the Hunt wood-lot last winter. Remem- 
ber in this connection that at one period last spring this bud appeared the most 
forward" (Journal V, 471 ). When searching for evidence of still distant renewal. 

30 The Concord Saunterer 

Thoreau tends to be both sober and expectant in this way, equally involved with 
the minutiae of the present and the rapid flow of the seasons, the promise to come. 

Some of the associations which transport him to far-off seasons are more 
subtle than buds and leafing, which are almost synonymous with spring. Summer 
can be lodged in a sudden scent, encountered on the off-chance in the frozen 
depths of February: "When I break off a twig of green-barked sassafras as I am 
going through the woods now — & smell it, I am startled to find it fragrant as in 
summer — It is an importation of all the species of oriental summers into our New 
England winter. Very foreign to the snow & the oak leaves" (Journal 4, 339). 
Similarly, the palest touch of colour seen against a background of snow can trigger 
a sudden flash of summer, all the more potent because of its rareness, as in January 
1854: "Nature is now gone into her winter palace. The trunks of the pines, greened 
with lichens, are now more distinct by contrast. Even the pale yellowish green of 
lichens speaks to us at this season, reminding us of summer" (Journal VI, 63). 
Perhaps summer, or indeed any season, is always present somewhere inside us, 
burning with a small light and ready to burst into full flame at the slightest hint as 
in the above example. Thoreau suggests as much in January 1855 when he 
comments on the overpowering force the recollection of summer can have in 
winter: "Perhaps what most moves us in winter is some reminiscence of far-off 
summer. How we leap by the side of the open brooks! What beauty in the running 
brooks! What life! What society! The cold is merely superficial; it is summer still 
at the core, far, far within" (Journal VII, 1 12). Stirred by memory and anticipa- 
tion, the inner season readily eclipses and even overthrows the outer season; 
thinking of summer, Thoreau suddenly is in summer even if it is January outside. 
The season he experiences is thus to some extent a subjective matter, which is 
open to manipulation at will. 

A glance at the most common kind of seasonal anticipation in the journal, 
anticipation of the following season, reveals how early Thoreau begins to look 
ahead and how consistent this practice is, applied to all four seasons alike. In 
1 854, a year keenly devoted to the study of the seasons and about three years into 
Thoreau' s dedicated mapping of seasonal progress, he already starts to think about 
spring in January, three months before it is due. The first spring anticipation 
occurs on the thirteenth when a persistent thaw brings associations of a warmer 
season: "Still warm and thawing, springlike; no freezing in the night, though high 
winds. . . . Even the telegraph harp seems to sound with a vernal sound, heralding 
the new year" (Journal VI, 65). The first anticipation of summer, which rapidly 
deepens into a summer memory, is recorded on April 6, again well before the 
season is pending: "This susurrus [of honey bees] carries me forward some 
months toward summer. I was reminded before of those still warm summer noons 
when the breams' nests are left dry, and the fishes retreat from the shallows into 
the cooler depths, and the cows stand up to their bellies in the river. The reminis- 
cence came over me like a summer's dream" (Journal VI, 1 86, Thoreau's emphasis). 

Madeleine Minson 31 

In a similar way, Thoreau glances at autumn when summer has barely started. On 
May 26, the rapid growth of the rye leads his thoughts to seasonal cycles in general 
and autumn in particular: 'it makes the revolution of the seasons seem a rapid 
whirl. How quickly and densely it clothes the earth! Thus early it suggests harvest 
and fall" (Journal VI, 303). Before the beginning of June, Thoreau' s anticipation 
has thus already become focused on autumn, off on a path of foretelling which is 
ever-bound for the future. Thus, when autumn actually arrives at the beginning of 
September, his thoughts gradually shift to winter. On the twelfth, the cold weather 
both energizes him and makes him think of providing for the following season, 
leading him to anticipate winter if ever so slightly: "This is a cold evening with a 
white twilight, and threatens frost, the first in these respects decidedly autumnal 
evening. It makes us think of wood for the winter. For a week or so the evenings 
have been sensibly longer, and I am beginning to throw off my summer idleness. 
This twilight is succeeded by a brighter starlight than heretofore" {Journal VII, 34; 
Thoreau' s emphasis). Coming full circle, the first spring anticipation in 1855 
occurs with due regularity in early January. Just like last year, spring promise is 
triggered by a certain warmth in the air: "The delicious soft, spring-suggesting air, 
— how it fills my veins with life! Life becomes again credible to me. A certain 
dormant life awakes in me, and I begin to love nature again. Here is my Italy, my 
heaven, my New England" (Journal VII, 104-5). This list could be continued 
throughout the year and indeed the years before and after. Judging by the 
abundant evidence of anticipation in the journal around this time, Thoreau barely 
pauses to take in the imminent quarter of the year (which he of course also does, in 
its multiplicity of detail) before shifting his attention to the next. 

It is in some ways perfectly common practice to look for signs of the next 
season, at least in winter and spring, evidence of little other than a natural interest 
in the renewal of the year. However, Thoreau' s habit of looking forward has more 
far-reaching implications than this. It can easily be regarded as a testimony to his 
optimism; the sign of a life lived continually on the borders of promise, reaching 
out for the future, simultaneously associated with and dissociated from the present. 
For Thoreau, this mode of life soon becomes a self-perpetuating practice; once he 
is fully devoted to it, by the beginning of the 1850s, his devotion just grows, 
leading him to repeat his cycles of observation from year to year. All seasons are 
eagerly expected in the journal but spring and autumn in particular, and most of all 
spring, which Thoreau invariably predicts and records in exhaustive detail, per- 
haps preferring it in a commonplace way. 1 ' As he puts it in a statement that his 
autumn life readily contradicts, "We observe attentively the first beautiful days in 
spring, but not so much in autumn" (Journal V, 382). 12 In late winter we are 
certainly more naturally inclined to look ahead; it is a time which is especially 
conducive to anticipation: "At the end of winter there is a season in which we arc 
daily expecting spring, and finally a day when it arrives" (Journal V, 13). In the 
early and mid- 1850s, Thoreau often refers to such a season o\' near-inevitable 

32 The Concord Saunterer 

anticipation as soon as the new year is under way; sometime in January or 
February. True to his fascination with the future during this period, his thoughts 
eagerly rush ahead of the year to spring. 

Thoreau's insistent spring anticipation is often matched by a recurring 
sense of belatedness and decline from about July onwards; a tinge of despondency 
arrives with the notion of fall. As he puts it in 1854, elaborating his theory of two 
halves of the year 13 : "The fall, in fact, begins with the first heats of July. ... It is 
one long acclivity from winter to midsummer and another long declivity from 
midsummer to winter" (Journal VI, 421 ). Or with a rather more ominous empha- 
sis, in July 1852: "Do not all flowers that blossom after mid. July remind us of the 
fall? After midsummer we have a belated feeling as if we had all been idlers — & 
are forward to see in each sight — & hear in each sound some presage of the fall. — 
just as in mid. age man anticipates the end of life" (Journal 5, 266). But there is an 
excitement inherent in the anticipation of autumnal lateness too, an excitement 
rather different in kind from that of expectation in spring. When the sound of 
crickets brings a reminder of autumn in July, Thoreau's reaction is one of 
exhilaration and sharpened senses: "How apt we are to be reminded of lateness, 
even before the year is half spent! Such little objects check the diffuse tide of our 
thoughts and bring it to a head, which thrills us" (Journal V, 336). This alertness, 
sparked into life by the suggestion of seasonal difference, is however tinged, if 
ever so subtly, by the melancholy associated with anticipating a season of decline. 

Considered from the perspective of autumn, the signs of oncoming 
seasons may thus be read as markers of the brevity of the year and life drawing to 
its close rather than as signs of hope and progress. Each act of anticipation points 
towards death as well as further life, rushing a process which is short enough as it 
is. "The year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life," Thoreau writes in 
August 1853, feeling the weight of impending darkness while considering the 
meaning of the sense of lateness which has come over him: "The sound of so many 
insects and the sight of so many flowers affect us so,— the creak of a cricket and 
the sight of the prunella and autumnal dandelion. They say, 'For the night cometh 
in which no man may work'" (Journal V, 379). The following year, Thoreau 
locates the sadness inherent in the turning of the year more precisely than in 
transience in general; it is in the sudden realization that spring-stirred promise 
might not find satisfaction this year either. As early as June 17, the hopes of the 
year seem to be fading: "The season of hope and promise is past; already the 
season of small fruits has arrived. . . . We are a little saddened, because we begin 
to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfilment" (Journal VI, 363). At 
the end of July, Thoreau reiterates this sentiment, emphasizing his sense of 
discrepancy between hope and attainment: "Methinks the season culminated 
about the middle of this month, — that the year was of indefinite promise before, 
but that, after the first intense heats, we postponed the fulfillment [sic] of many of 
our hopes for this year" (Journal VI, 413). It is perhaps only by renewing the 

Madeleine Minson 33 

dream of renewal, which Thoreau readily does by dreaming of another spring 
soaked in promise, that the dense shades which have become associated with 
forward-looking can be cleared away, making anticipation again seem attractive. 
Thoreau' s sensitivity to the prospect of autumn closing in, already arrest- 
ing the expansion of his heart in mid-summer, indicates how acutely affectable he 
is by seasonal or other variations in his surroundings. As he puts it, "Our moods 
vary from week to week with the winds & the temperature — & the revolution of 
the seasons" (Journal 5, 49). Thoreau' s connection to the landscape in later life is 
startling and vital, external rain or sunshine reaching deep into his soul at all times 
of the year. Sufficient time — or with the words of Walden, "leisure and opportu- 
nity to see the spring come in" (302) — is essential if this close interchange with 
nature shall work in a fruitful and creative way. Thoreau is often acutely anxious 
about missing the event of a new season, fending off distractions as best he can. 
On May 19, 1852, he reflects on how far he has succeeded in this during the 
present spring: "Up to about the 14th of May I watched the progress of the season 
very closely — though not so carefully the earliest birds — but since that date both 
from poor health & multiplicity of objects I have note [sic] little but what fell 
under my observation" (Journal 5, 67). In September 1 854 he eloquently sums up 
the benefits of having the time and freedom to observe in a statement that could 
readily serve as a credo for his way of life in the 1850s: 

Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad 
to read them the next winter, I realized how incomparably great the advantages of 
obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps 
enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical, leisure I had 
spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy-free. I have given 
myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and 
winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them, and imbibe whatever 
nutriment they had for me; I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the 
flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when 
they opened. . . . Ah, how I have thriven on solitude and poverty! I cannot 
overstate this advantage. ... If I go abroad lecturing, how shall I ever recover the 
lost winter? (Journal VII, 46) 

Ironically enough, Thoreau does give up the next few months to writing and 
lecturing, thus missing the arrival of winter. 14 On December 8 he comments on 
this loss: "Winter has come unnoticed by me, I have been so busy writing. This is 
the life most lead in respect to Nature. How different from my habitual one! It is 
hasty, coarse, and trivial, as if you were a spindle in a factory. The other is 
leisurely, fine, and glorious, like a flower" (Journal VII, 80). The life Thoreau 
laments missing here is not necessarily a life of anticipation but it is certainly a life 
of attention to the progress of the year, and in particular to that crucial point where a 
season takes hold and turns into reality, wrecking or fulfilling dreams in the process. 

34 The Concord Saixterer 

To Thoreau. the arrival of spring or any season remains a beautiful 
. :y no matter how much he studies it. ever-new and elusive in its capacity to 
surprise and demand attention. Its seemingly obvious signs, such as newly opened 
flowers, can be noted over and over again in the journal: Thoreau" s record of them 
- clearly of a mind that does not wean of its self-appointed task. "What is 
riiest sign of spring." Thoreau would ask in March 1853. a couple of years 
into his devotion to such matters and still naively unsure. He suggests a wide 
g e rf answers: "The motion of worms & insects'? — the flow of sap in trees & 
the swelling of buds — ? Do not the insects awake with the flow of the sap? Blue 
rob [sic] do not come till insects come out. Or are there earlier signs in 
the water — the Tortoises frogs Szc" I Journal 5,472-73 Not that there necessar- 
ily is a right answer: indeed, the point of an entry such as this may be to draw 
attention to the wonderful multiplicity of spring. Thoreau" s increasingly exhaus- 
tive lists : -rasonal phenomena, gatherings of facts which are simultaneously 
rich in their precision and limited by it. function in a similar way. In autumn 1 853 
he meticulously notes the current state of trees and plants, turning the moment at 
hand into a rough approximation of the season: 

Oct. 24. Early on Naw shawruct. 

Black willows bare. Golden willow with yellow leaves. Larch yellow. Most 
alders by river bare except at top. Waxwork show s red. Celtis almost bare, with 
:ish-yellow leaves at top. Some hickories bare, some with rich golden- 
brown leaves. Locusts half bare, with greenish yellow leaves. Catnip fresh and 
green and in bloom. Barberries green, reddish, or scarlet. (Journal V. 450) 

This inventor, method of distilling the essence of a season creates its own kind of 
poetry ion the objective borderlines of natural history) in the process. As Laura 
Dass .v Walls has recently argued in an attempt to still the long-running debate 
about Thoreau "s alleged loss of imagination in his later years, poetry and science 
in the nineteenth century were not the polar opposites they are today but tools that 
could be used in the same quest for truth. 15 By the last decade of his life, Thoreau 
knows more clearly than ever before what he is seeking and how he intends to go 
about finding it. a certainty which should reassure us that he has not lost his way. 
even if his lists might frustrate us. His path leads through natural science, and the 
journal evidence of his painstaking attempts to realize his vision through careful 
study of the landscape is nothing less than moving, revealing a life given over to a 
higher purpose 

Thoreau "s record of the arrival of spring in 1854 is particularly detailed. 

ranging from comments on its early signs to lengthy lists of budding and leafing in 

•racing a gradual shift from abstract expectation to solid reality). His 

starting point back in February is a pure premonition of spring, a sentiment 

without concrete grounding but rich in indefinite promise: "'For several weeks the 

Madeleine Minson 35 

fall has seemed far behind, spring comparatively near. Yet I cannot say that there 
is any positive sign of spring yet; only we feel that we are sloping towards it. The 
sky has sometimes a warmth in its colors more like summer" (Journal VI, 1 30). In 
March, the actual signs of spring start amassing: melting snow, greenness in the 
grass, warm rain, bird song ("Heard the first bluebird, — something like pe-a- 
wor, — and then other slight warblings, as if farther off [Journal VI, 156]). The 
subtle hopes induced by these random hints pale somewhat when Thoreau begins 
to gather the evidence of spring in bulk in April and May. He follows the leafing 
process exactly, noting dates of first appearance, a collection of data which 
gradually culminates in over four pages of lists of the order of trees coming into 
leaf (see Journal VI, 297-302 [May 24]). Inventories of this kind were certainly 
not unique to Thoreau, reaching back to the eighteenth-century tradition of nature 
writing and even to some extent to classical literature. 16 Thoreau was well aware 
of this; he was familiar with the nature works of English writers such as Gilbert 
White and William Howitt, who both make use of seasonal tables (see for example 
the lists of birds in Letters 1 and 2 to Barrington in White's The Natural History of 
Selborne)} 1 White's A Naturalist's Calendar, which was extracted by Daines 
Barrington from White's yearbooks and The Natural History of Selborne and 
published in 1795, amounts to a pure list of dates of budding and leafing as well as 
of plants disappearing, following the structure of the year from January to Decem- 
ber. 18 These dates are based on an average of the available information, directly 
foreshadowing Thoreau' s calculation of averages for his 1860s Kalendar charts. 
The volume also contains lists such as "Trees, Order of Losing Their Leaf and a 
"Summary of the Weather" month by month between 1768 and 1792; material of 
no small affinity with Thoreau' s late calendrical interests (the list of trees, for 
example, finds its elaborated counterpart in "Autumnal Tints"). 

White's Garden Kalendar follows a more traditional diary structure, 
recording in a straightforward way his actions in the garden and other seasonal 
events between 1 75 1 and 1771. Although a few of these entries could be mistaken 
for extracts from Thoreau' s journal, any kind of forward looking or concern with 
anticipation is absent here; what White is writing is a pure and precise record of 
the seasons as they affect his garden, without much aid of (or indeed any need for) 
transforming imagination. His diary exudes neutral contentment, speaking of a 
life lived practically in the present, as one side of Thoreau would have loved to be 
able to live. Consider this entry from September 9, 1765: "Beautiful autumnal 
weather: most of the corn housed. Gathered my only nect: it was not ripe; but the 
earwigs had gnawed it so that it could not come to any thing. Gathered my first 
peach: its flesh was thick, tender, white, & juicy; & parted from the stone. It was a 
good fruit; but not so high flavoured as some I have met with." 19 In The Book of 
the Seasons, William Howitt includes tables of natural phenomena in his entries 
on each month as part of an attempt to sum up their characteristics. 20 Thoreau 
reviewed the book in 1 836 and would thus have encountered a statistical approach 

36 The Concord Saunterer 

to nature here, if nowhere else, at a very early stage. More emphatically by far 
than White or Thoreau, Howitt is concerned with averages, ordering the months 
into the perfectly regular seasons of a prototype year, with three predictable 
months in each. 21 As he explains his intentions at the opening of the January 
chapter: "I speak now as I intend to speak, generally. I describe the season not as 
it may be in this or another year, but as it is in the average." 22 Only when Thoreau 
finally starts assembling his Kalendar does he come anywhere near to sharing this 
ambition (and then he employs it in a far more rigorous way than Howitt, a 
commercial writer, ever did). In the early and mid- 1850s, Thoreau' s intentions 
are altogether more modest; he is contented with noting the details without 
drawing out statistical conclusions. 

Howitt' s English average seasons are not necessarily applicable to the 
climate of New England. Thoreau acknowledges this difference when he takes 
argument, in a journal entry from February 1854, with Howitt' s way of ordering 
the year: "Howitt describes the harvest moon in August. Did I not put it in 
September?" (Journal VI, 112). 23 The difference is largely one of delay; the 
greater severity of the New England winter (despite its more southerly latitude) 
makes the wait for spring both longer and more conducive to longing, just as the 
greater difference between the seasons makes each more precious and distinct. 24 
The very Concord climate is thus a climate of anticipation, as Thoreau is well 
aware. In January 1852 he describes the beauty of the sharply defined New 
England year: "In few countries do they enjoy so fine a contrast of summer & 
winter — we really have four seasons, each [sic] incredible to the other. Winter 
cannot be mistaken for summer here. Though I see the boat turned up on the shore 
& half buried under snow — as I walk over the invisible river — summer is far 
away" (Journal 4, 291). In Concord, the prolonged barrenness of winter makes 
anticipation both possible and vital, an important fact to bear in mind to make 
sense of the emotional force Thoreau invests in expecting and enjoying the 
seasons. Every new season, even winter and fall, amounts to a "wonderful 
resurrection," altering the whole tone of the world by bringing back conditions 
different enough to have been forgotten since last time. 

Thoreau' s main way of keeping absent seasons alive and near is by 
carefully recording them in the journal, as he does with ever-increasing dedica- 
tion. As he reads back over the entries made at other times of the year, the seasons 
they describe often seem more potent than they originally did; revisited from a 
distance, all times of the year shine with the lustre of otherness. As Thoreau 
eloquently puts it in October 1853: 

It is surprising how any reminiscence of a different season of the year affects us. 
When I meet with any such in my Journal, it affects me as poetry, and I appreciate 
that other season and that other phenomenon more than at the time. The world 
thus seen is all one spring, and full of beauty. You need only to make a faithful 

Madeleine Minson 37 

record of an average summer day's experience and summer mood, and read it in 
the winter, and it will carry you back to more than that summer day alone could 
show. Only the rarest flower, the purest melody, of the season thus comes down 
to us. (Journal V, 454) 

Looking for the excitement of other seasons among his own past journal entries is 
perhaps no different from seeking the signs of absent seasons in nature; the thrill at 
an apt encounter is of a similar kind. Thoreau' s imagination thrives on difference 
wherever it finds it, gilding the absent whether he encounters it in writing or in the 
landscape as such. The extreme reflexivity of this act of seasonal memory is 
striking, pointing subtly but firmly towards the creation of a self-sufficient uni- 
verse. Just gather enough material and you can live and relive the year through it, 
dissolving the need for nature itself, as Thoreau eventually starts to do when 
assembling charts from journal material. Long before that, he emphasized the 
importance of making a record that preserves the year in this way: "In a journal it 
is important in a few words to describe the weather, or character of the day, as it 
affects our feelings. That which was so important at the time cannot be unimpor- 
tant to remember" (Journal VII, 171). Thoreau must have sensed that these 
records would become invaluable for his Kalendar project; that the journal's final 
function would be as a storehouse of primary material for his further work. In the 
1860s, when he is summing up the seasons, Thoreau is actively reliving them in 
the process of writing. This reliving can also be done more directly (although this 
too is ultimately recorded in writing), as when he thinks back to his life of a few 
months earlier, perhaps, as in the following passage, remembering what it then 
was like to anticipate nature. On June 21,1 854, he recalls how he sought the seeds 
of the present full-blown summer in the spring that once was: "When I see the 
dense, shady masses of weeds about water — already an unexplorable maze, — I 
am struck with the contrast between this and the spring, [when] I wandered about 
in search of the first faint greenness along the borders of the brooks. Then an inch 
or two of green was something remarkable and obvious afar. ... It is hard to 
realize that the seeds of all this growth were buried in that bare, frozen earth" 
(Journal VI, 372-73). The intertwinement of memory and anticipation is complex 
and intense here. Contemplating change, Thoreau looks back to a moment of 
looking ahead in a heady game with time, crossing it not only once but twice. 25 

Thoreau also engages with change by noting the disappearance of sea- 
sons in the same way he once recorded their arrival. As H. Daniel Peck has put it: 
"Everything I am writing about beginnings in the Journal can also be applied to 
endings. Although Thoreau noted them less frequently, he was as interested in a 
season's final manifestations as he was in those marking its initiation, and re- 
corded them as carefully." 26 By the middle of July he begins to list flowers which 
have gone out of blossom (see for example July 25, 1852) and, inversely, to note 
the lingering signs of summer: "Barn swallows still July 31 \ 1853]. Blue- 

38 The Concord Saunterer 

curls. Wood thrush still sings" (Journal VI, 414). The repetition of "still" in these 
entries gives a sense of impending lateness; Thoreau is holding on to the season 
for once, gathering the remnants of summer instead of looking ahead to autumn. 
When studying seasonal change in early autumn, he thinks in similar terms of 
absence. A brief observation such as "the locust sounds rare now" {Journal VII, 
45) soberly marks the need to adjust to September loss, and the losses of autumn 
are manifold: "Took my last bath the 24th. Probably shall not bathe again this 
year. It was chilling cold" (Journal VII, 58). Perhaps fall invites description of the 
present through absences and endings of this kind; just add them up and possibly 
find the sum of the season. Thoreau is particularly susceptible to autumn change 
in 1 854, commenting as early as the second of September on how "It will not be 
warm again probably" (Journal VII, 6). A year which started out with the 
enumeration of promise, the literal counting of blessings, thus soon enough invites 
him to trace departures in this way. A haunting list of losses, in some ways more 
striking than his famous lost turtle-dove, bay horse and hound in Walden, could be 
distilled from Thoreau' s autumn entries this year (although it would soon enough 
be superseded by further lists of winter and spring phenomena, together testifying 
to only a temporary eclipse of the year). 

Seasons, like weather, are easily forgotten, obscured by the new without 
leaving much of an imprint unless one deliberately takes note of them, perhaps by 
recording their arrival and departure, as Thoreau realized. The year is continually 
forgotten and ever-new, although its novel impressions are still resonant with the 
past, unlocking our deep familiarity with annual cycles: "Each new year is a 
surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and 
when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous 
state of existence" (Journal X, 304). Without these resonant reminders, true 
forgetting threatens; this is the burden of Thoreau' s rather over-emphatic words, 
temporarily ignoring both his good memory and his journal record: "It is impos- 
sible to remember a week ago — A river of lethe flows with many windings the 
year through — separating one season from another" (Journal 5, 47). Thoreau 
keeps drawing dividing lines through the year in this manner, sectioning it off into 
parts of little apparent connection, which are nevertheless easily overridden by 
anticipation or memory. This insistence on a gulf between the present and the past 
could be read as evidence of Thoreau' s stubborn forward looking, part of an 
optimistic onward thrust that keenly embraces the future. At the turning of the 
year 1853-1854, he describes the partially successful process of shaking summer 
and autumn from the mind: "The thoughts and associations of summer and 
autumn are now as completely departed from our minds as the leaves are blown 
from the trees. Some withered decidious [sic] ones are left to rustle, and our cold 
immortal evergreens. Some lichenous ones still adhere to us" (Journal VI, 37 
[December 29, 1853]). Once the symbolic line of the new year has been crossed, 
Thoreau effectively "closes" the past, ridding himself of its last few lingering 

Madeleine Minson 39 

leaves: "It is now fairly winter. We have passed the line, have put the autumn 
behind us, have forgotten what these withered herbs that rise above the snow here 
and there are, what flowers they ever bore" (Journal VI, 48 [January 3, 1854]). 
Thoreau seems to have successfully launched himself into the new season and 
forgotten the past, busy advancing confidently in the direction of his dreams. 
However, his understanding of the seasons is altogether too complex to be tied 
down by such facile divisions for long; soon enough, he will remember and dream 
of the flowers those withered herbs once bore. 

Thoreau' s journal record of seasonal progress in the early 1850s abounds 
in evidence of the arbitrariness of the boundaries between different times of the 
year. His occasional urge to divide the year into distinctive parts thus seems rather 
rash and sudden, part of a desire to construct a narrative of smooth cyclical 
progression embracing both spring and fall which nature itself emphatically 
defies. Looking around at the apparently unified landscape, seasonal develop- 
ment is everywhere at different stages, an infinity of variations held loosely 
together under the name of each season. It might for example be another season 
entirely down by the river: "The pontederia leaves are sere and brown along the 
river — The fall is further advanced in the water as the spring was earlier there. I 
should say that the vegetation of the river was a month further advanced in its 
decay than of the land generally" (Journal 5, 346). Signs of earlier seasons might 
linger in the landscape, in extreme cases for a whole year like the winter-made 
cracks in the ground Thoreau keeps noticing throughout 1854. He frequently 
comments on these reminders of otherness, if only in passing, as here in Septem- 
ber: "I see no swallows now at Clamshell. They have probably migrated. Still see 
the cracks in the ground, and no doubt shall till snow comes" (Journal VII, 18). 
Marks of continuity, these cracks break through the dividing lines Thoreau seeks 
to introduce into his conception of the year. He also takes note of other reminders 
of absent seasons around this time, in particular Indian springs and summers 
which by their very nature testify to the way seasons refuse to stay put. Periods of 
warmth beyond expectation, they tend to stir up hopes out of season and set 
Thoreau off on the familiar track of anticipation. He describes the Indian spring in 
mid-March 1853 with a degree of disillusionment, as a "first false promise which 
merely excites our expectations to disappoint them, followed by a short return of 
winter" (Journal V, 22). His comments on the Indian summer the previous 
December were rather more hopeful, reaching both back and forward to fullness: 
"The year looks back toward summer — & a summer smile is reflected in her face. 
... At this season I observe the form of the buds which are prepared for spring — 
the large bright yellowish & reddish buds of the Swamp pink" (Journal 5, 400). 
The mere act of envisioning what has been and will come again is here readily 
capable of renovating the year, or at least the inner season, with some help from 
unexpected external warmth. 

At once vitally related to nature and separate from it, Thoreau can either 
exercise his liberty, perhaps by anticipating nature, or give himself over to the 

40 The Concord Saunterer 

season at hand by soaking in the here and now as deeply as possible. During the 
winter of 1852, he keeps contemplating his relation to nature, wondering for 
example about the way life continues to flow in man while the rest of nature 
withers in annual decay, sure sign of man being somehow unrelated and out of 
step (see Journal 4, 252-53). A short while earlier that January, he dwelt on the 
need to be better attuned to nature's pace: "Let me not live as if time was short. 
Catch the pace of the seasons — have leisure to attend to every phenomenon of 
nature — and to entertain every thought that comes to you. Let your life be a 
leisurely progression through the realms of nature" (Journal 4, 244). Only by 
catching "the pace of the seasons" in some true sense can we come anywhere near 
to living in the present, Thoreau realizes, trying hard to attune his restless mind to 
nature's unfolding events and thus gain a degree of steadiness and inner peace. 
Living in season is, after all, nature's own prerogative: "Everything is done in 
season and there is no time to spare — The bird gets its brood hatched in season & 
is off. I looked into the nest where I saw a vireo feeding its young a few days ago — 
but it is empty — it is fledged & flown" (Journal 5, 313). Such attunement to the 
time at hand is also necessary for Thoreau' s creative purposes, his 1850s writing 
depending directly on his observation of the seasons. As nature is so rich and of 
such infinite variety, if he could only move in a bit closer and find the words to 
match it, his writing would surely show a corresponding richness: "Every new 
flower that opens, no doubt, expresses a new mood of the human mind. Have I any 
dark or ripe orange-yellow thoughts to correspond? The flavor of my thoughts 
begins to correspond" (Journal V, 184). 27 Thoreau' s imagination thrives on the 
idea of responding to the present in some intimate way, and beyond that, of being 
contented with this creative interaction with the landscape. As winter approaches, 
surely the most hopeful thing we can do is to learn to appreciate it. "'Let us sing 
winter.' What else can we sing and our voices be in harmony with the season?" 
(Journal VI, 86), Thoreau writes, quoting "a crazy man" of his acquaintance who 
suddenly ascended the pulpit, prayer book in hand, and thus addressed the church. 
Perhaps the ultimate goal of Thoreau' s restless mind is quite simply to find the 
place in every season where it can rest a little, a place so beautiful that it is actually 
worth lingering in, even if a good deal of that beauty is his mind's projection on 
outer starkness, as it sometimes is. As Thoreau put it with Walden confidence, 
"every season seems best to us in its turn" (313), a sentiment which is increasingly 
reiterated in the journal, as here in December 1856: "I love the winter, with its 
imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and 
resources. ... I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing 
without it at all other times" (Journal IX, 160). 

Perhaps as a way of acknowledging the importance of living in the 
present, Thoreau occasionally resists the impulse to anticipate nature. On December 
31, 1851, the sudden touch of spring in the air instead turns his thoughts back to 
winter: "It reminds me this thick spring like weather, that I have not enough 

Madeleine Minson 41 

valued and attended to the pure clarity & brilliancy of the winter skies — . . . . Shall 
I ever in summer evenings see so celestial a reach of blue sky contrasting with 
amber as I have seen a few days since" {Journal 4, 229-30). Resistance to 
seasonal anticipation also occurs in more submerged ways, as when Thoreau 
deliberately does not comment on the coming season even though his observations 
clearly point in its direction. In June 1854, for example, the connotation of 
autumn inherent in ripening berries is not actually spelt out: "I see one or two early 
blueberries prematurely turning. The Amelanchier Botryapium berries are already 
reddened two thirds over" {Journal VI, 35 1 ). Maybe this is his way of recognizing 
that these turning berries belong to summer too, or indeed above all, and that their 
plain existence in the present will do. The most striking aspect of a season can be 
its fullness; the revelation of an essence not to be improved upon.- 8 In June 1 853, 
the remarkable thing about the still new summer is the fact that it is in its prime, a 
fact which would seem more and more significant to Thoreau as the 1850s 
advanced: "As I look over the fields thus reddened in extensive patches, now 
deeper, now passing into green, and think of the season now in its prime and 
heyday, it looks as if it were the blood mantling in the cheek of the youthful 
year, — the rosy cheek of its health, its rude June health" {Journal V, 219). Struck 
by the appearance of the reddened fields, Thoreau is for once looking neither back 
nor forward, but straight at them. 29 At least a few times in every season he is 
similarly entranced by their peak or perfection. In September 1852, he comments 
lyrically on the intensity of autumn as revealed by the appearance of "great bidens 
in the sun in brooks," which he describes as "The golden glow of autumn 
concentrated — more golden than the sun" {Journal 5, 342-43). Thoreau is picking 
out a detail which speaks amply and clearly of the beauty of the whole, and which, 
just like the turning berries or the reddened fields, is sufficient in itself. 

Seeing and describing such season-bound beauty, perhaps Thoreau comes 
as close to living in the present as he ever will during this period, letting its essence 
flow effortlessly into his blood. At the end of 1854, after a year marked by 
unusually restless anticipation, Thoreau arrives for a while at such a stance of 
appreciation. Towards the end of December he suddenly finds himself in what he 
calls "the finest days of the year" {Journal VII, 89 [December 21]); a few perfect 
winter days he gladly allows himself to be entranced by. On December 31 he 
seems to be wholly at peace, concluding a year racked by foretelling and longing 
in a mood of reverential acceptance, contented with the prospect before him: 

Dec. 31. P.M. — On river to Fair Haven Pond. 

A beautiful, clear, not very cold day. The shadows on the snow arc indigo- 
blue. The pines look very dark. ... I see mice and rabbit and fox tracks on the 
meadow. Once a partridge rises from the alders and skims across the river at its 
widest part just before me; a fine sight. . . . How glorious the perfect stillness and 
peace of the winter landscape! (Journal VII, 98) 

42 The Concord Saunterer 

Thoreau's optimism does not reside only in his defiant forward looking; there is 
even deeper promise to be found in single instances of being such as this winter 
walk on the last afternoon of the year. It is perhaps in these moments of stillness 
that Thoreau can begin to realize the words of Walden, "This is, and no mistake" 
(98). For sometimes, at least for a moment, before the seeking mind starts seeking 
again, it must indeed be possible to feel with conviction that this is summer (or 
autumn, or winter, or spring), and no mistake; this is where I belong, and the 
season and I are one. 30 


Henry Thoreau, Journal 5, ed. Patrick F. O'Connell (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 

1997), 49. All subsequent references to this edition, indicated by Arabic numerals. 

will appear parenthetically in the text. 

Sherman Paul, The Shores of America: Thoreau's Inward Exploration (Urbana: Univ. 

of Illinois Press, 1958), 288. 

Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, ed. J. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 

1971), 96-97. All subsequent references to this edition will appear parenthetically in 

the text. 

It might however be argued that the most potent and ideal present to Thoreau is 

precisely that which is capable of sparking off such imaginative transformations. 

Henry D. Thoreau, The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, fourteen volumes bound as two, 

ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen, 1906 (New York: Dover Publications, 

1962), Journal VI, 392. All subsequent references to this edition, indicated by Roman 

numerals, will appear parenthetically in the text. 

Henry Thoreau, Journal 3, ed. Robert Sattelmeyer et al (Princeton: Princeton Univ. 

Press, 1984), 124. All subsequent references to this edition, indicated by Arabic 

numerals, will appear parenthetically in the text. 

On this occasion, Thoreau's experience is however tinged by a feeling of being 

''wrong" in some way, out of step with himself and the world. This mood of slight 

despondency is relatively rare in the journal. 

Anticipation of seasons is a deeply Proustian practice as experienced by Thoreau. 

Each and every encounter might transport him to other times of the year and the 

present is only as rich as the associations it holds, a springboard to dreams. Walking 

open and affectable through the landscape, Thoreau is walking in the past and future 

too, seasons mingling in his mind on the slightest suggestion. Gathering what is 

distant into the present moment in this way, he truly lives in a hybrid present that is 

suffused with hope. 

As H. Daniel Peck has succinctly put it. "The necessary context for observing the 

'first' appearance of a seasonal phenomenon is the natural cycle; any 'first' in nature is 

recognizable only because it has happened before"; "Reporting the appearance of . . . 

'first birds' to his Journal is an act of confirmation as much as an act of origination; the 

beginning, in Thoreau, always pivots between memory and anticipation." See Thoreau 's 

Madeleine Minson 43 

Morning Work: Memory and Perception in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack 
Rivers, the Journal, and Walden (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press. 1990). 

10 The word "reminds." however, here suggests remembrance of the past only as a 
submerged secondary meaning. In this context, it even seems to point more emphati- 
cally to the future than to the past. 

1 1 Thoreau' s journal entries tend to swell in bulk each spring. In both 1853 and 1854 for 
example, his May entries put together are almost twice as long as his January ones (in 
the 1906 edition, twenty-three pages compared to thirteen in 1853, and twenty-two 
pages compared to twelve in 1854). 

12 Thoreau is even capable of grading the seasons according to preference ("How 
precious a fine day early in the spring — less so in the fall, less still in the summer & 
winter" [Journal 5, 393]). although the validity of such a statement is amply contra- 
dicted by the loving attention he bestows on all seasons alike. 

1 3 See also the suggestion of a two-part year in Thoreau' s description of the "foreglow" 
and the "afterglow" of the year in the entry for March 18. 1853, both of which are 
curiously marked by anticipation: "The sun is now declining, with a warm and bright 
light on all things, a light which answers to the late afterglow of the year. when, in fall, 
wrapping his cloak closer about him. the traveller goes home at night to prepare for 
winter. This is the foreglow of the year, when the walker goes home at eve to dream of 
summer. To-day first I smelled the earth" {Journal V, 27). H. Daniel Peck alludes to 
this theory in his discussion of what he regards as Thoreau' s challenge to traditional 
calendar divisions: "To decide that, "in fact.' autumn begins in July and that summer 
begins in May is to appropriate the role of calendar-maker to oneself by appealing to 
immediate observation, and thus to challenge the traditional calendar's lines of 
demarcation. This challenge, of course, is part of a larger claim for the efficacy of 
individual perception" (Thoreau' s Morning Work. 92-93). 

14 During November and December 1 854. Thoreau was working intensively in particular 
on his lectures "Life without Principle" and "Moose Hunting." Thoreau gave the 
latter of these in Philadelphia on November 20 and in Concord on December 5 (it was 
later incorporated into The Maine Woods). 

15 Laura Dassow Walls suggests that Thoreau continued to engage with both poetry and 
science in a complex and creative way in his quest to make sense of nature: "In 
nineteenth-century terms, Thoreau rejected neither poetry nor science, nor did he 
simply "reconcile" them, collapsing them together. In the "consilience' of Emersonian 
transcendental wholes with Humboldtian empirical science, he sacrificed neither but 
attempted to create a way of knowing which combined them both into something 
new." See Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century 
Natural Science (Wisconsin: Univ. of Wisconsin Press. 1995). 1 1. 

16 John Evelyn's Kalendariuin Hortense ( 1664) was one of the first directly calendrical 
work to appear, followed by works by naturalists such as Gilbert White. Thoreau was 
also reading the classical agriculturalists Cato. Varro and Columella intensively at the 
beginning of 1854. copying extensive extracts into the journal (sec his entries tor 
January and February 1854 in Journal VI, approximately pp. 50-120). These writers 
were at least to some extent concerned with the seasons, mainh in terms of the 
farming year. 

44 The Concord Saunterer 

1 7 Thoreau refers to or quotes from White and Howitt several times in the journal. The 
first of these entries, a quotation from White on the raven, occurs in March 1853 
(Journal V, 65). He had however already reviewed William Howitt' s The Book of The 
Seasons in March 1836 (see Early Essays and Miscellanies, 26-36). 

18 White's The Natural History of Selbome was originally undertaken as an attempt to 
write a "natural history of the year," an idea he gradually abandoned. 

19 Gilbert White. Garden Kalendar 1751-1771. facsimile of the manuscript in the British 
Library, introduction and notes by John Clegg (London: Scolar Press, 1975). 

20 The following self-explanatory tables are inserted in the monthly entries, listing 
current phenomena: "Calendar of the Flower-Garden," "Select Calendar of British 
Insects." "Migrations of Birds (Departures and Arrivals)" and "Select Calendar of 
British Botany." 

2 1 In the entry on March for example, Howitt playfully exaggerates the contrast between 
the months: "Artificial as the division of the months may be deemed by some, it is so 
much founded in nature, that no sooner comes in a new one than we generally have a 
new species of weather, and that instantaneously. ... In comes January. — and let the 
weather be what it might before, immediately sets in severe cold and frost: in 
February, wet — wet — wet. which, the moment March enters, ceases — and lo! in- 
stead — even on the very first of the month, there is a dry, chill air, with breaks of 
sunshine stealing here and there over the landscape." See The Book of the Seasons, or 
The Calendar of Nature (London: Henry Colbum and Richard Bentley. 1831), 61-62. 

22 The Book of the Seasons, 3. 

23 Thoreau goes on to work out for himself which months should properly belong to 
winter: "Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall; it is a wintry 
November: February, to the spring; it is a snowy March" (Journal VI, 1 12). Ending up 
with only one winter month, he leaves Howitt' s regular seasons a long way behind. 
The arbitrariness of our seasonal divisions also becomes clear by a comparison to 
other ways of demarcating the year. Thoreau was very interested in the way the 
American Indians considered each month as a season in itself and named them after 
their characteristics, as numerous entries on this subject in his Indian Notebooks 
indicate. In chapter seven of The Environmental Imagination, Lawrence Buell draws 
attention to Thoreau 's questioning of the normal "fourfold typology of seasons" (in 
comparison to predecessors such as James Thomson): "What distinguishes Thomson's 
representation of the seasons from those of his romantic successors [such as Thoreau] 
is his sense of the fixity of the seasonal round. . . . 'Inveterate thinker' though he was, 
Thomson never questioned, as later naturists came to do, whether properly speaking a 
fourfold typology of seasons made best sense. . . . There is a bit of every season in 
each season,' [Annie] Dillard writes." See The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, 
Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge. Mass. and 
London: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1995) 227-28. Buell concludes this 
discussion by emphasizing how important it is that art concerned with the seasons 
should stretch our understanding of them: "a further measure of the higher skill we call 
genius is the ability to do at least as much strategic violence to the expected boundaries 
as any particular iteration of the seasons is bound to do" (232). 

24 As Lawrence Buell has pointed out, America embraces so many different climates that 
its seasons are hard to pin down ("A vast continental expanse subject to much more 

Madeleine Minson 45 

dramatic vicissitudes of weather, America was distressingly hard to generalize under 
any one set of seasonal rubrics." [The Environmental Imagination, 230J). 

25 For another instance of looking back to an earlier forward looking self, see Thoreau's 
entry for July 18, 1854 ("Where I looked for early spring flowers I do not look for 
midsummer ones. Such places are now parched and withering" [Journal VI, 402]). 

26 Thoreau's Morning Work, 99. 

27 See also the entry for September 8, 1854, in which Thoreau describes such a moment 
of correspondence: "Many green-briar leaves are very agreeably thickly spotted now 
with reddish brown, or fine green on a yellow or green ground, producing a wildly 
variegated leaf. I have seen nothing more rich. . . . Now, while I am gathering grapes. 
I see them. It excites me to a sort of autumnal madness. They are leaves for Satyrus 
and Faunus to make their garlands of. My thoughts break out like them, spotted all 
over, yellow and green and brown" {Journal VII, 27). 

28 Significantly, Thoreau becomes more and more interested in the prime of seasons 
towards the end of his life. The late journal abounds in brief notations about plants 
reaching their peak, shifting its emphasis from anticipation of the future to an endeavour 
to pin down the present which directly reflects Thoreau's increasing contentment and 
inner peace. See also Richard Lebeaux' s account of Thoreau at the end of the 1 850s in 
Thoreau 's Seasons, which stresses his gradual arrival at maturity (or "ripening") in 
these later years. Lebeaux sees a direct relation between Thoreau's interest in the 
maturity of seasons and his own (Eriksonian) life stage: "Just before he learned of 
Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry [in 1859], Thoreau had been focusing, as he had the 
previous two years in particular, on nature's ripening and its correspondence to his 
own." See Thoreau's Seasons (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1984), 327. 

29 However, his imagination is at work as ever, comparing the reddened fields to the rosy 
cheeks of the year. Perhaps the present needs this creative refigurement. an image able 
to contain and explain it, to make sense to us. 

30 I would like to thank Ronald Hoag and Wesley Mott for their helpful suggestions and 
patient proofreading of this essay. 



•— 5/3 

w 0> 

V e 



rtmry ^fioreau and the 
advent of American %ait 

Henrik Gustafsson 

During the last thirty years of antebellum America, coinciding with the 
final three decades of Henry Thoreau's life, railroad mileage in the United States 
exploded. Twenty unconnected miles burgeoned into an articulated network of 
roughly thirty thousand miles. 1 While the early railroads in the 1820s served 
mainly as feeders or adjuncts to waterways, the following decades saw the railroad 
come into its own as transport medium. 2 With steadily improving speed and 
efficiency, trains carried freight and passengers to ever more destinations. Busi- 
ness investments, federal incentives and popular fancy combined to make the 
locomotive an emblem of enterprise and progress. Railroads linked America with 
its West. When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads joined at Promon- 
tory, Utah, in 1 869, it was hailed as a defining event of American civilization. 

A network of lines constructed between towns and cities along the 
Atlantic seaboard preceded the westward expansion. Even tiny Concord, Massa- 
chusetts, was linked to Boston in 1 844 by the Fitchburg railroad. 3 The conse- 
quences for Henry Thoreau eventually prompted one of the most famous reactions 
to the technology in print. Walden gave voice to an essentially antagonistic assess- 
ment of the railroad. Its utility was questioned. The supposedly grand notions that 
urged it on were deprecated. And as the railroad physically disturbed the writer's 
peace of mind, he treated it as an unwelcome intruder. Yet like every other person, 
Thoreau was powerless against its advance. It made trade and travel easier, and 
many of Thoreau's fellow villagers found it beneficial to their economy. Quite a 
few farmers of his generation left their stony fields for new jobs in Boston, or for 
the loam out West. 4 Eventually even Thoreau found himself in need of the 
railroad, though he downplayed this fact in his writings. 

When Walden was published in 1854, the railroad had already been a 
presence in Concord for a decade. And while that book's accounts of the railroad 
have been extensively discussed, questions remain as to how Thoreau reacted to 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

48 The Concord Saunterer 

the railroad at the outset. 5 Did he form any opinions of it before it reached 
Concord? How did he later conceive of it as it gradually became an integral part of 
village life? How did he view its effects on landscape, of which he was such a 
faithful recorder? Do his comments on the railroad in his writings correspond to 
his practical attitude towards it? This study will address these questions from a 
largely chronological perspective, considering Thoreau's correspondence and 
journals as well as his published works. 6 Its essential argument is that Thoreau's 
attitude towards the railroad was ambivalent even in the years before Walden. 
More specifically, it will propose that Thoreau's idealistic disdain for the railroad's 
materialism and intrusiveness was soon complicated by a pragmatic indulgence of 
its efficiency, and thereafter by a selective admiration of its more "natural" 
characteristics and effects. 

Enrolled at Harvard, Thoreau had to walk the fifteen miles between 
Cambridge and Concord at school breaks. Once, on his way home in his freshman 
year, he "blistered his feet so badly that he hiked the last two miles in his stockings 
and was three hours going the last few miles from Lincoln to Concord" (Days, 44). 
Local railroads were still in their infancy, and other transportation was either too 
expensive or infrequent. Dating from his Harvard days, Thoreau's first extant 
allusion to the railroad is metaphorical. In a school essay of August 30, 1837, he 
responds to a question on the prevalent "commercial spirit's" effects on the moral 
character of the nation. He attributes to the "commercial man" a yearning for 
freedom and speed: when wind and waves no longer suffice, "he must needs 
ransack the bowels of the earth that he may make for himself a highway of iron 
over its surface." 7 So far as the spirit involves freedom and the mitigation of 
man's slavery to matter all is well, but there is a darker side to the enterprising 
spirit. Its ruling principle is "a blind and unmanly love of wealth." 8 While 
Thoreau ends his essay on a positive note, it nonetheless betrays an early 

By the late spring of 1843 the Boston-Fitchburg railroad was well under 
way. The Irish work teams were steadily nearing Concord. Meanwhile Thoreau 
stayed at William Emerson's household on Staten Island, working as tutor for 
Emerson's son and seeking to break into the literary market of New York. He 
keenly waited for news of the road's progress and kept a lively correspondence 
with his family and R. W. Emerson. In a letter to his sister Sophia on May 22, he 
expressed a hope that the family would "not be washed away by the Irish sea" 
(Correspondence, 106). R. W. Emerson wrote to Thoreau on June 10, confirming 
that "[t]he town is full of Irish & the woods of engineers with theodolite & red flag 
singing out their feet & inches to each other from station to station. Near Mr 
Alcott's the road is already begun" (Correspondence, 1 17). Detached from the 
scenes of construction, Thoreau remained curious throughout the summer, at the 
same time glad to be away from the worksites. Addressing his mother on August 
6, and probably referring to his parents' habitual walks in the vicinity of their 

Henrik Gustafsson 49 

home, he wrote: "I should have liked to be in Walden woods with you, but not with 
the railroad" {Correspondence, 131). 

On September 8 R. W. Emerson wrote Thoreau a letter that summed up 
his own concerns regarding the new road: 

The work goes on very fast. The mole which crosses the land ... to the depot, is 
eighteen feet high, and goes on two rods every day. A few days ago a new 
contract was completed, — from the terminus of the old contract to Fitchburg, — 
the whole to be built before October, 1844; so that you see our fate is sealed. I 
have not yet advertised my house for sale ... but I can easily foresee that some 
inconveniences may arise from the road, when open, that shall drive me from my 
rest. {Correspondence, 137) 

Soon Thoreau returned home to appraise the situation for himself. His efforts to 
reach city magazines during his Staten Island sojourn did not prove fruitful. 
Instead, his sights refocused on The Dial, where Emerson served as editor. A year 
previously Thoreau had published "A Natural History of Massachusetts," and now 
by September he secured publication of "A Winter Walk." Each of these works 
makes reference to railroads. As in the school essay of 1837, the comments come 
as asides. 

In "A Natural History of Massachusetts" — formally a review of state 
reports on local fauna — Thoreau contrasts a "din of religion, literature, and 
philosophy" with a calmer "pulse of nature." Where the man-made clamor 
recedes, our sleep improves. Upon our awakening, however, nature's subtle pulse 
"disappears with smoke and rattle like the cars on a railroad." 9 We are thus jolted 
awake to the din once more, and can only briefly feel nature's beat as it abates. 
The railroad serves as a somewhat ostentatious — and perhaps misplaced — rhetori- 
cal device. While intended as a boisterous illustration of the process of awaken- 
ing, it actually muddles the statement. Comparing the "pulse of nature" to the 
noise of railcars hardly strengthens nature's distinction from human "din." 

In "A Winter Walk" Thoreau uses railroad imagery to describe an 
interlude of river skating. Along the ice he joyously exclaims: "The deep, 
impenetrable marsh ... is made pervious to our swift shoes, as if a thousand 
railroads had been made into it." 10 The reference is positive, even mildly ecstatic. 
Thoreau attempts to illustrate the smooth ease of motion by associating it with a 
spread of railroad tracks. Apart from this halting likeness, a significant difference 
is also suggested. Since it is clearly unreasonable that "a thousand" actual tracks 
should ever be laid over the river, Thoreau obviously mentions them metaphori- 
cally — and clearly so at the expense of the railroad. For here the maker of tracks is 
the skater in his freedom; only he is empowered to make "a thousand" tracks by 
virtue of the river ice. A locomotive with its engineer, by contrast, has no such 
flexibility. That Thoreau here deliberately alludes to a latent "weakness** o\' rail 
technology is very probable. 

50 The Concord Saunterer 

In November 1843, Thoreau submitted a review to The Democratic 
Review concerning J. A. Etzler's The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, 
without Labour, by Powers of Nature and Machinery (2d ed., London, 1842). 
Etzler's Utopian vision involved harnessing various natural forces — wind, tide, 
and sun — by as yet undeveloped technology. By simultaneously organizing 
people in communities and communizing economic activities, Etzler reasoned, 
most forms of labor would eventually be rendered unnecessary. 11 Thoreau' s 
response to Etzler's theory reveals both his transcendental convictions (emphasiz- 
ing the primacy of individual reform) and his skepticism of technology. "Every 
machine . . . seems a slight outrage against universal laws," he says, and qualifies: 
"Already nature is serving all those uses which science slowly derives on a much 
higher and grander scale to him that will be served by her." 12 Thoreau argues that 
nature will amply fill human needs without being transformed by technology. 
Further, in the distilling of nature's energy into machinery, man's morals are 
liable to be discarded: "The chief fault of [Etzler's] book is, that it aims to secure 
the greatest degree of gross comfort and pleasure merely." 13 Indirectly, Thoreau 
indicts the railroad with these charges. The railroad he had hitherto evoked in his 
papers was a symbol of rapaciousness, arguably closely allied to Etzler's sup- 
posed yearning for a comfortable Utopia. It also symbolized inflexiblity as 
compared to nature and the natural man — well illustrated by the skating episode in 
"A Winter Walk." 

1844 saw the completion of Concord's link to Boston. 14 Despite Thoreau' s 
nascent leanings against it, the railroad's temptation proved overpowering. Now 
that it was possible to travel conveniently to Boston and back in a day, Thoreau 
often took the opportunity to borrow books at Boston libraries. But he rarely 
mentioned the fact — and much less how he traveled. This is also true of his longer 
railroad travels — they remain hushed in his writings. It is tempting to ascribe this 
silence partly to the awkward position the railroad takes already in his earliest 
works. Further, more than ample evidence shows that Thoreau preferred travel by 
foot. An early journal note of April 20, 1840, sets the tone for many future 
statements: "An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." 15 Walking 
could be construed as a more worthy individual action than riding among seden- 
tary travelers, "'whose legs hang dangling the while'" as he put it. 16 Even when 
he used the railroad on longer excursions, the overt goal of nearly every such 
journey was a hiking tour or lecturing assignment. Curt in acknowledging any use 
of public transportation, Thoreau' s travel accounts in these cases consist mainly of 
nature notes from his rambles. Oddly enough, when on lecturing trips Thoreau 
rarely kept record of anything relative to his performances. As Dean and Hoag 
point out, "His journal entries and letters covering these junkets often say little or 
nothing about his lectures, but they record, often in great detail, the many field 
trips and walking tours he managed to integrate into his generally brief visits." 17 

In time Thoreau would undertake several long journeys that involved 
railroad travel. His Canadian sojourn in 1850 (comprising over a thousand 

Henrik Gustafsson 51 

railroad miles) serves as a case in point. He never discusses the railroad in his 
published account of the trip. "I wished only to be set down in Canada, and take 
one honest walk there as I might in Concord woods" he says in his first para- 
graph. 18 And indeed, next to nothing follows on train travel. Thoreau merely 
maintains a distortion of his vision of landscape: "These . . . trees appeared very 
numerous, for our rapid progress connected those that were even some miles 
apart." 19 Yet a private journal entry from the trip provides a noteworthy passage 
that did not reach the published version. Under October 3 1 , Thoreau writes of his 
ride: "I am wont to think that I could spend my days contentedly in any retired 
country house that I see — for I see it to advantage now & without incumbrance — 
I have not yet imported my humdrum thoughts — my prosaic habits into it to mar 
the landscape." 20 As Bachelard points out, Thoreau is here "sunk deep in day- 
dreaming," pleasantly lulled by the "rapid progress" of the train. 21 Thus, while 
Thoreau frowns upon speed and smooth motion in his official account, his 
journal — perhaps inadvertently — mitigates that response. 

Thoreau' s ambivalent attitude towards the experience of railroad travel 
belies his alleged aversion to public transport. He proved not to be an abstaining 
Luddite. As several critics show, pragmatic concerns also overruled his "stay-at- 
home" rhetoric. When interested in an excursion to Maine or Cape Cod, for 
example, it was more often the expense than the transport means that deterred him. 
Tellingly enough, a temporary cut-rate offer from the railroad company prompted 
his 1850 trip to Canada. 22 

From July 1845 to September 1847, Thoreau spent most of his days at 
Walden Pond, writing and polishing drafts of A Week and Walden. The new 
Fitchburg railroad skirted the pond's southwest corner, just visible from the 
writer's cabin site {Walden, 130). 23 Trains passed daily at regular though long 
intervals, clearly audible over the water. Their vapor plumes were often seen 
thrusting above the shore treeline. A journal note from this period relates 
Thoreau' s fascination with an exotic train cargo: "I am refreshed and expanded 
when the freight-train rattles past me on the rail road — and I smell the stores which 
have been dispensing their odors from long-wharf last — which remind me of 
foreign parts of coral reefs & Indian oceans and tropical climes — & the extent of 
the globe — I feel more a citizen of the world at the sight of the palm leaf . . . — the 
manilla cordage — & the cocoanut husks" (Journal 2, 237-38). As the train 
rumbles past, Thoreau also catches sight of "old Junk & scrap iron," sailcloth, 
Maine lumber, and rolls of lime, while smells of salt fish and "molasses or rum" 
are also noted (Journal 2, 238). His response to the train is interesting for its 
positive tone. In expanded form this entry will contrast with his familiar iron 
horse passages in Walden, where the train (when directly encountered) is other- 
wise mostly presented as an unwelcome intruder (Walden, 1 19-22, cf. 1 16). 

From the vantages of Thoreau' s walks — Fair Haven Hill and Nawshawtuct 
Hill among them — the railroad's impact on the landscape around Concord must 

52 The Concord Saunterer 

have seemed extensive if not imposing. Forming a blunt arrowhead, the tracks 
merged from the west and southeast, prodding the town's southwest end. 24 Yet 
standing on the summit of a local hill with all in plain view, Thoreau chose to 
disregard modernity's encroachment on the landscape. As late as 1862, in 
"Walking," he willfully asserts the purity of his panorama: "Man and his affairs, 
church and state and school, trade and commerce, and manufactures and agricul- 
ture, even politics, the most alarming of them all — I am pleased to see how little 
space they occupy in the landscape." 25 This perception surely involves a romantic 
diminution of foreign objects. The railroad particularly — with its causeways, 
tracks, smoke trails, rattling and whistles — ought already in the mid 1840s to have 
been too much of a presence to be credibly overlooked. 

On November 14, 1847, soon after concluding his Walden stay, Thoreau 
wrote to Emerson, then on a tour of England. Describing events of Concord and 
the Emerson household (where Thoreau acted as caretaker in Emerson's absence), 
he also related an incident just witnessed: 

As I walked over Conantum, the other afternoon, I saw a fair column of smoke 
rising from the woods directly over my house that was (as I judged), and already 
began to conjecture if my deed of sale would not be made invalid by this. But it 
turned out to be John Richardson's young wood, on the southeast of your field. It 
was burnt nearly all over, and up to the rails and the road. It was set on fire, no 
doubt, by the same Lucifer that lighted Brooks's lot before. So you see that your 
small lot is comparatively safe for this season, the back fire having been already 
set for you. (Correspondence, 192) 

As Harding's comments on the letter clarify, "the Lucifer was the railroad train 
that was constantly setting fire to Concord woods" (Correspondence, 193). Thoreau 
took to strong words to describe the "culprit." But two factors ought perhaps to 
have dampened his reaction. One was the ultimately positive effect of the fire in 
question for Emerson, while inconsequential to Thoreau' s own business of selling 
his cabin (both facts also noted, not without satisfaction, in the passage). The 
second concerns the circumstance of Thoreau' s own accidental starting of a fire 
three years earlier. That fire burned off more than three hundred acres of forest in 
the same region, and gave Thoreau an infamous reputation as "woodburner" 
among angered villagers (Days, 159-61 ). The locomotive in the present case was 
no more guilty than Thoreau, yet Thoreau never came to concede his own 
negligence as faulty — much less as mean or devilish. Summing up an account of 
"his" fire in a journal entry six years after the fact, he tellingly shifts emphasis 
from his own role to a subsequent one of the railroad: "The locomotive engine has 
since burned over the same ground & more & in some measure blotted out the 
memory of the previous fire" (Journal 3, 75-78). 26 

During the following two years, 1848-49, Thoreau worked to complete 
his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. It was published on 

Henrik Gustafsson 53 

May 30, 1849, after years of continuous redrafting. An amalgam of various 
themes explored in conjunction with the account of an 1839 boating trip with his 
brother, A Week is still seen by many as marred by superfluous essay material. 
The long gestation period of A Week brought more than a swell of themes and 
pages, however. As Thoreau reworked and expanded his book, he also reflected 
upon changes occurred since the original excursion. As recent critics point out, 
John's death in 1842 proved pivotal for A Week, making a crucial layer of its 
narrative revolve around questions of loss and memory. 27 This private ordeal 
dominates the book, and colors the tone of many of its themes. As Johnson shows, 
Thoreau' s sense of loss in A Week extends to the environs of the voyage, parts of 
which he revisited on a walking trip in 1848. The Merrimack valley was by then 
far more industrialized, the railroad having made the river a commercially redun- 
dant waterway (Weave, 4, 39-40). 

In Thoreau' s original draft, the brothers moor for the "Sunday" night at a 
bank in Tyngsboro, but are "kept awake by the boisterous sport of some Irish 
laborers on the railroad" (Weave, 323). 28 Johnson contends: 

[This] was an ominous sound, for the railroad spelled the end of the river as he 
and John had known it. Thoreau was later [in the final version] forced to 
conclude his description of the Merrimack in "Sunday" by acknowledging that, 
in the southern reaches of the river, its true channel was the "iron channel" of the 
railroad and that "instead of the scream of a fish-hawk scaring the fishes, is heard 
the whistle of the steam-engine arousing a country to its progress" (W 87). By 
1848 the railroad had been extended all the way to Concord, New Hampshire, 
beyond the farthest reach of their 1839 voyage. At the conclusion of an extended 
celebration of canal boats, which play such an important role in A Week, Thoreau 
consequently added: "Since our voyage the railroad on the bank has been 
extended, and there is now but little boating on the Merrimack. All kinds of 
produce and stores were formerly conveyed by water, but now nothing is carried 
up the stream, and almost wood and bricks alone are carried down, and these are 
also carried on the railroad. The locks are fast wearing out, and will soon be 
impassable, since the tolls will not pay the expense of repairing them, and so in a 
few years there will be an end of boating on this river" ( W 2 1 3). ( Weave, 39-40) 

There is of course a latent irony in the fact that the locks are just as commercially 
motivated as the railroad succeeding them. Nevertheless, the railroad's progres- 
sion and its effects on river boating compound the writer's elegiac mood. In 
"Tuesday," Thoreau depicts the railroad as an agent of abrupt or even violent 
change: "Railroads have been made through certain irritable districts, breaking 
their sod, and so have set the sand to blowing, till it has converted fertile farms into 
deserts, and the Company has had to pay the damages" (Week, 199). This brief 
note, inserted into a surprisingly jocular passage on the spread of sand near the 

54 The Concord Saunterer 

Merrimack, gives the reader a harsh impression of what the force of historical 
change can bring about for individuals and their families. 

The railroad references in A Week often concern a sense of historical loss 
that reveals a personal one as well. The engineer surveying land for the Lowell 
and Nashua railroad in "Friday," for example, comes as a historical portent. A 
couple living by the Merrimack bankside take pains to show him how high the 
river can rise. They find their old marking nail in a hollow of their apple tree, but 
the engineer disregards this marker since "no one else remembered the river to 
have risen so high" (Week, 356). The engineer obviously uses a method of mass 
interviews. It amounts to a gauging of the "common truth" — and Thoreau's 
disposition towards such truth is implicitly hostile. A triumphant rebuttal follows 
his account of the engineer's query: "I learn that there has since been a freshet 
which rose within nine inches of the rails at Biscuit Brook, and such a freshet as 
that of 1785 would have covered the railroad two feet deep" (Week, 356). Thoreau 
rather forcedly contends that the engineer — while behaving rationally — should 
not have neglected the couple's evidence. He heavy-handedly hints the railroad's 
oppressive force against individuals. As some of his earlier passages clarify, the 
railroad causes land erosion and forced eviction for some. Here others find it 
simply disregarding their testimony, with all that is thereby implied. 

But there are more grounds for scepticism towards the railroad in A 
Week. The railroad also brings a spiritual erosion. In "Monday," the poem "With 
frontier strength ye stand your ground" culminates in the westward pilgrim's 
striving upwards: 

Even beyond the West 
Thou migratest, 
Into unclouded tracts, 
Without a pilgrim's axe, 
Cleaving thy road on high 
(Week, 165) 

Later in "Thursday" Thoreau muses on the loss of physical frontiers: "Go where 
we will on the surface of things, men have been there before us" (Week, 303). 
This loses its importance, however, for the writer subsequently maintains that "the 
lives of men, though more extended laterally in their range, are still as shallow as 
ever" (Week, 304). 29 With these passages, Thoreau contrasts the heavenly aspira- 
tion of the transcendentalist with the merely horizontal extension of other men and 
their machines. 

Further, a significant passage discussing travel occurs in "Thursday." 
When the brothers leave their boat behind to continue by foot towards the summit 
of Agiocochook, a mystic is quoted as recommending travel to those who can 
subsist by work of their hands. To this Thoreau adds a necessary taste for "wild 

Henrik Gustafsson 55 

fruits and game," and then maintains: "A man may travel fast enough and earn his 
living on the road" (Week, 304). Citing himself as an example, he tells how "A 
man once applied to me to go into a factory, stating conditions and wages, 
observing that I succeeded in shutting the window of a railroad car in which we 
were travelling, when the other passengers had failed. 'Hast thou not heard of a 
Sufi, who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal; an officer of 
cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, come along and shoe my horse"' (Week, 
305). By directly appending this anecdotal quote to the railcar man's request, 
Thoreau makes the passage pointedly tongue-in-cheek. The cavalry officer and 
the railcar man cannot comprehend different motivations for the same action. The 
Sufi may be hammering away for a reason of his own, just as Thoreau might have 
his own reasons for being of service in the car. But the irony deepens when 
Thoreau closes his account by asserting that "the cheapest way to travel, and the 
way to travel the furthest in the shortest distance, is to go afoot" (Week, 305). 

The goal of the brothers' walk in "Thursday" — which frames the discus- 
sion of foot travel — is Agiocochook, also known as Mount Washington. Johnson 
shows how Thoreau deletes mention of a number of manmade facilities along the 

In the Journal [Thoreau] noted that they had "crossed a rude wooden bridge over 
the Amonnoosuck and breathed the free air of the Unappropriated Land" (J 
2:268); in A Week they cross the stream "on prostrate trees." Implicitly, since 
they are "enabled to reach the summit of AGIOCOCHOOK" (W 3 14, emphasis 
added), their journey is made possible, not by man or manmade improvements, 
but by the consent of nature and the Indian gods of Agiocochook. (Weave, 24) 

Johnson offers a related and compelling argument for the writer's tendency of 
silencing or de-emphasizing certain aspects of travel: Thoreau 's editing to "natu- 
ralize" his work clearly adheres to a conscious literary strategy to stress the 
wildness of country and ruggedness of trekking. 

Close upon the publication of A Week, Thoreau jotted down some notes 
on the English railroad in his journal. They concern an unsigned critique in the 
Quarterly Review of Arthur Smith's The Bubble of the Age; or, the Fallacies of 
Railway Investments, Railway Accounts, and Railway Dividends (London, 1848), 
the Rules and Regulations of the London and North Western Railway Company 
(1848), and Herepath's Railway and Commercial Journal (1848) (Thoreau '.s 
Reading, 225). Thoreau captioned his long entry simply "London & North- 
western," and it comprises a spread of notes on railroad durability, speed, mainte- 
nance, growth, and material composition (Journal 3, 12-13). Whether Thoreau 
contemplated some further use of these notes or not, intriguingly he placed them in 
the journals, and not in any of the "commonplace" books usually reserved for 
factual entries. 

56 The Concord Saunterer 

Thoreau's reading elsewhere reflected his curiosity about the railroad. 
He owned a Complete railway map to accompany the American Railway Guide 
(New York: undated) and also made much use of Emerson's copies of the United 
States. War Department. Reports of explorations and surveys, to ascertain the 
most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi river to 
the Pacific ocean, made under the direction of the secretary of war, in 1853- (6) 
(12 vols; Washington, 1855-60) (Thoreau 's Reading, 157, 284). Notes from these 
volumes spread over several of Thoreau's fact books. 

Regarding the nation's westward project, Thoreau did not remain neu- 
tral: he saw it as fueled by base motivations. Angered over the 1850s goldrush to 
California, he emphatically condemned it in a journal entry of February 1, 1852: 
"Going to California. It is only 3 000 miles nearer to Hell" (Journal 4,311). Even 
in a more balanced mood his principal objections remained. Writing to his friend 
H. G. O. Blake on February 27, 1853, he elaborated on his opinion: 

The whole enterprise of this nation which is not an upward, but a westward one, 
toward Oregon California, Japan &c, is totally devoid of interest to me, whether 
performed on foot or by a Pacific railroad. It is not illustrated by a thought it is 
not warmed by a sentiment, there is nothing in it which one should lay down his 
life for, nor even his gloves, hardly which one should take up a newspaper for. It 
is perfectly heathenish — a flibustiering toward heaven by the great western route. 
No, they may go their way to their manifest destiny which I trust is not mine. 
May my . . . dollars whenever I get them help to carry me in the other direction. . 
. . What end do they propose to themselves beyond Japan? What aims more lofty 
have they than the prairie dogs? (Correspondence, 296) 

The remarks here echo Thoreau's assertion of the prevailing and coarse "lateral 
extension" of men in A Week. He saw the drive west as horizontal merely; as 
uninformed of any higher purpose than material gain. 

Closer to home, Thoreau had earlier noticed social and demographic 
effects of the railroad impacting on his community. On September 28, 1851, he 
wrote in his journal: 

The rail-roads as much as anything appear to have unsettled the farmers. Our 
young Concord farmers & their young wives hearing this bustle about them — 
seeing the world all going by as it were — some daily to the cities about their 
business, some to California — plainly cannot make up their minds to live the 
quiet retired old-fashioned country-farmer's life — They are impatient if they 
live more than a mile from a railroad. While all their neighbors are rushing to the 
road — there are few who have character or bravery enough to live off the road. 
(Journal 4, 108-9) 

Henrik Gustafsson 57 

The railroad's presence was doubtless an alluring factor to many Concord farm- 
ers. It brought access to a speedier and more efficient transport medium for 
dispatch of their farm products. Living close to the railroad also minimized local 
transport costs. But Thoreau' s criticism aims higher than at these practical 
concerns. He laments the loss of an "old-fashioned country-farmer's life," and 
credits the few resolute on remaining as full of character and bravery. The 
majority may be acting on hopes of a better economy, Thoreau implies, yet 
yielding to the temptation that the railroad symbolizes will inevitably lead to 
moral degeneration. This is made clear by the charged words associated with the 
railroad: "bustle," "world," "California." Further, those disposed to move nearer 
the tracks (or to leave altogether) are described as "unsettled" and "impatient" — 
foolish enough to be dragged into a collective craze as "all their neighbors are 

Yet Thoreau' s real alternative to those inclined to approach and make use 
of the railroad remains unclear. The "old-fashioned" life he proposes may well 
have seemed economically untenable to a younger generation of farmers. 30 As 
Lebeaux remarks, the westward urge was very strong among young Concordians 
during Thoreau' s lifetime; so powerful even that one may ponder if Thoreau 
would not have needed to define himself against it (as opposed to merely ignoring 
it) in order to justify his own staying on. 31 He was, after all, not bent on a 
conventional career such as his education would have facilitated, and as a writer 
he was struggling at best. In this context a moral argument would undoubtedly 
serve him as a good defense, as it could fence out both the conventional career 
option and the radical solution of leaving. For both, it could be argued, were 
instigated by such worldly cares as money and material comfort. Tellingly, in the 
February 27, 1 853. letter to H. G. O. Blake, Thoreau elaborates along such lines on 
his own choice to stay back East in defiance: "I would rather be a captive knight, 
and let them all pass by, than to be free only to go whither they are bound" 
(Correspondence, 296). What better way to illustrate one's moral virtue than by 
assuming knighthood, and a captive one to boot? 32 

Thoreau obviously felt deeply troubled by the railroad and its implica- 
tions. In his works he generally either criticized or ignored it. But he ultimately 
needed the railroad in his personal life. Apart from transport to his lecturing 
engagements out of town — which will be discussed further on — he also needed 
access to a well-stocked library. On September 17, 1849, he wrote a letter to 
Harvard University President Jared Sparks applying for a book-loan permit. He 
justified his request thus: 

I am encouraged to ask this, not merely because I am an alumnus of Harvard, 
residing within a moderate distance of her halls, but because I have chosen letters 

58 The Concord Saunterer 

for my profession, and so am one of the clergy embraced by the spirit at least of 
her rule. Moreover, though books are to some extent my stock and tools, I have 
not the usual means with which to purchase them. I therefore regard myself as 
one whom especially the library was created to serve. If I should change my 
pursuit or move further off, I should no longer be entitled to this privilege. 
(Correspondence, 249) 

The letter would be of relatively little interest had Emerson not alluded to it during 
his address at Thoreau's funeral. In Emerson's anecdotal version of the event, 
Thoreau personally went to the library, whereupon the librarian refused to lend 
him books. Thoreau then approached the school President, who pointed out that 
only resident graduates, alumni clergymen, and a few others within a circle often 
miles' radius from the college were allowed to take out books. As a retort, 
Emerson recalls, "Mr. Thoreau explained to the President that the railroad had 
destroyed the old scale of distances," and then renounced the library rules as 
"useless." 33 Thoreau eventually got his permit (Days, 266-68). 34 

This episode, with its invocation of the railroad as an ally, reveals 
Thoreau's pragmatic ambivalence. The railroad had "compressed" the distance 
between his home and the library thanks to its very "lateral extension" and 
speed — two aspects of the technology Thoreau was intrinsically wary of. How- 
ever, seeing his library books at stake subdued any qualms over self-contradiction. 

Indeed, a perceived "higher purpose" would frequently come to excuse 
Thoreau's railroad excursions. "In his travels," Emerson says, "he used the 
railroad only to get over so much country as was unimportant to the present 
purpose." 35 Simply put, the railroad stretches were not seen as important in 
themselves: they were subordinated to a higher purpose of acquiring books, taking 
new walks, or giving lectures. As symbol of a degenerated westward urge, of 
commercial strivings, and general haste, the railroad could be construed as a 
formidable moral foe". As transport for one with a higher aim, however, the 
railroad eventually became tolerable to a degree that almost — but not quite — 
warranted open mention and discussion. 

Thoreau's gradual acceptance of the railroad can be inferred from his 
writings in the early 1850s. "It is easy to foresee that one extensive and well 
conducted & orderly institution like a rail-road will keep time & order for a whole 
country" he says in his journal on June 8, 1850 (Journal 3, 82). Several following 
entries objectively describe and discuss implications of the Fitchburg railroad, and 
notably its Deep Cut. On September 2, 1851, Thoreau noted a discovery and a 
question in his journal: "Found the succory at Minn's Bridge on R R — & beyond. 
Query — May not this & the Tree Primrose and other plants be distributed from 

Henrik Gustafsson 59 

Boston on the rays of the Railroads — the seeds mixing with the grains & all kinds 
of dirt & being blown from the passing freight cars?" (Journal 4, 32). Thoreau 
writes as matter-of-factly of the railroad as of the plants that seem to have been 
spread by its cars. He treats it on a par with a natural phenomenon — as an agent of 
seed dispersion like a squirrel or bird or high wind. 

Five years later, on February 14, 1856, Thoreau would return to a similar 
matter in his journal. He then reported of a walk towards Walden pond that 

I was struck to-day by the size and continuousness of the natural willow hedge on 
the east side of the railroad causeway, at the foot of the embankment, next to the 
fence. Some twelve years ago, when that causeway was built through the 
meadows, there were no willows there or near there, but now . . . quite a dense 
willow hedge has planted itself. I used to think that the seeds were brought with 
the sand from the Deep Cut in the woods, but there is no golden willow there; but 
now I think that the seeds have been blown hither from a distance, and lodged 
against the foot of the bank, just as the snow-drift accumulates there. . . . For 
years a willow might not have been persuaded to take root in that meadow; but 
run a barrier like this through it, and in a few years it is lined with them. . . . The 
sand-bank is a shore to them, and the meadow a lake. How impatient, how 
rampant, how precocious these osiers! . . . Thus they take advantage even of the 
railroad, which elsewhere disturbs and invades their domains. May I ever be in 
as good spirits as a willow! How tenacious of life! How withy! How soon it gets 
over its hurts! They never despair. . . . They are emblems of youth, joy, and 
everlasting life. . . . This hedge is, of course, as straight as the railroad or its 
bounding fence. 

This entry illuminates Thoreau' s complex stance towards the railroad as trans- 
former of landscape. On the one hand it fosters a group of willows alongside its 
tracks, where the surrounding meadow is not to their liking. Seen from this angle 
the railroad is a positive influence. It creates a seedbed for willow growth that 
pleases the writer. On the other hand, the railroad elsewhere intrudes into the 
tree's domains, robbing it of territory. This troubling duality gains definition 
when we notice that Thoreau intersperses the passage with his own explicit 
identifications with and celebrations of the willows. 37 He describes them as 
emblems of tenacious youth, impervious to hurt or despair. This culminates with 
his own aspiration towards their stoic qualities: "May I ever be ... as a willow." 
Yet the eulogy lasts only a moment. Thoreau ends by reminding the reader of the 
willows' utter confinement to the railroad causeway and fence, where they are 
lined up in conformity along the track. 

Albeit brief, Thoreau' s close identification with the willows suggests 
wider associations. Are they alone in experiencing the mixed blessing of the 
railroad? Are the willows the sole victims being curbed and bounded by its 

60 The Concord Saunterer 

extension, even as that extension facilitates their travel along its lines? Is their 
implicitly wild growth the only such growth impaired or "hedged"? Ironically 
undercutting the reverie on their heroic qualities is the acknowledgment of their 
ultimate containment by the fence bordering the railroad. The text's shifts 
between reverie and observation are crucial to its interpretation. Thoreau achieves 
a contrast between the actual and the ideal, most effective in the last shift where 
his musings are cut short with an emphatic "of course" that squarely relates the 
willows to the confining railroad. 38 

The railroad takes on negative connotations when related to Thoreau' s 
personal morals. While he can still criticize it in that context, it has by the 1850s 
become an integral part of his landscape, and he largely accepts it as such. A 
journal entry logged February 3, 1852, describes impressions from an evening 
walk along the tracks toward the cliffs: 

I hear my old acquaintance the owl from the Causeway. The reflector of the cars 
as I stand over the deep cut — makes a large & dazzling light in this air — The 
cars do not make much noise — or else I am used to it and now whizzes the boiling 
sizzling kettle by me — in which the passengers make me think of potatoes — 
which a fork would show to be done by this time. The steam is denser for the cold 
& more white — like the purest downy clouds in the summer sky its volumes roll 
up between me & the moon. And far behind when the cars are a mile off it still 
goes shading the fields with its wreathes. The breath of the panting traveller. I 
now cross from the RR to the road. {Journal 4, 324) 

The train now neither surprises nor agitates Thoreau. He calmly notes its passing, 
and likens its vapor trail to "downy clouds in the summer sky." Thoreau thus 
effects a temporary blending of a technological and natural phenomenon. 39 Be- 
fore stepping down from the causeway, however, he disperses his cloud image by 
concluding that the steam in fact constitutes "the breath of the panting traveller." 
Apart from this brief ironic wryness, a mood of resigned acceptance pervades the 
passage: "The cars do not make much noise — or else I am used to it." 40 Thoreau 
here acknowledges the railroad's place in the landscape, but falls short of welcom- 
ing its presence. 

Only a month later, however, Thoreau seems thoroughly reconciled to 
that presence. A journal entry of March 9, 1852, shows him once again out 
walking along the causeway. Captioned "3 Pm down the R R.," the passage reads: 

The RR men have now their hands full — I hear & see blue-birds come with the 
warm wind. The sand is flowing in the deep cut — I am affected by the sight of 
the moist red sand or subsoil under the edge of the sandy bank — under the pitch 
pines. The r-road is perhaps our pleasantest & wildest roads. It only makes deep 
cuts into & through the hills — on it are no houses nor foot travellers. The travel 

Henrik Gustafsson 61 

on it does not disturb me. The woods are left to hang over it — Though straight 
is wild in its accompaniments — all is raw edges. Even the laborers on it are not 
like other laborers — Its houses if any are shanties — & its ruins the ruins of 
shanties shells where the race that built the R R dwelt — & the bones they gnawed 
lie about. I am cheered by the sound of running water now down the wooden 
troughs on each side the cut. Then it is the dryest walking in wet weather & the 
easiest in snowy. This road breaks the surface of the earth. Even the sight — of 
smoke from the shanty excites me today. Already these puddles on the RR 
reflecting the pine woods remind me of summer lakes (Journal 4. 382-83) 

Warm weather has come early, and maintenance crews need to inspect and repair 
stretches of the track where the sleepers are being dislodged by thaw or sand 
erosion. Thoreau seems genuinely to enjoy himself in the spring scenery. The 
flow of sand and water, the sight of bluebirds, the warm wind: all these factors 
serve to pacify any disgruntlement on account of railroad activity. Indeed Thoreau 
erupts in sheer joy. Praising the railroad specifically for providing an excellent 
walking facility in adverse weather, he calls it "our pleasantest & wildest" road. It 
offers solitude from other foot travelers, and lies relatively secluded from village 
houses as well. Former reservations are largely subdued. The travel on the 
railroad "does not disturb me," Thoreau says. Moreover, he now voices a positive 
opinion of the trackside vegetation. Though the road is straight, it is "wild in its 
accompaniments — all is raw edges." Thus the critic's eye ultimately switches 
vantage from the surrounding landscape to one from the track itself. Though an 
active saunterer's vision is engaged (rather than one of a "passive" passenger), it is 
importantly a view/rora the railroad. Seen from this perspective, the surrounding 
vegetation will naturally seem "wild" and of "raw edge" — regardless of other 
observations to the contrary. 

After Thoreau' s graduation from Harvard in 1837, lecturing became an 
intermittent activity. Far from reaching the success of Emerson, he nevertheless 
gave at least seventy-five lectures during his lifetime, forty-three of them before 
Walden's publication. Many of the lecture invitations came from outside Concord 
(around fifty of seventy-five), and Thoreau often needed the railroad to meet 
them. 41 A number of journal entries refer to train travel in conjunction with his 
lectures, though most give mere notations. Often enough Thoreau mentions 
neither transport nor lecture. In the journal of 1 854 there are some important clues 
as to these silences. An entry of September 19 shows Thoreau pondering his near 

Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad 
to read them the next winter. I realized how incomparably great the advantages of 

62 The Concord Saunterer 

obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps 
enjoy). ... I have given myself up to nature; I have lived so many springs and 
summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them. . . . 
I do not see how I could have enjoyed [this advantage], if the public had been 
expecting as much of me as there is danger now that they will. If I go abroad 
lecturing, how shall I ever recover the lost winter? 42 

Here the root of Thoreau' s ambivalence to lecturing (and its contingent railroad 
travel) becomes clear: he gained money, but lost experience. 43 Despite these 
misgivings. Thoreau would continue lecturing as long as his invitations and health 
allowed. He delivered several that same winter: among them "What Shall It 
Profit" on December 6 in the Railroad Hall in Providence, Rhode Island. The hall 
was part of the new depot there, and Thoreau reported that he was "struck with the 
Providence depot, its towers and great length of brick" (Journal 7, 79). In the 
same entry he described his train ride with some regret: "I see thick ice and boys 
skating all the way to Providence, but know not when it froze, I have been so busy 
writing my lecture." 

Of the experience of railroad travel during lecturing excursions, Thoreau 
often seems unimpressed. On a journey to Philadelphia two weeks before Provi- 
dence, he noted "[b]eyond Hartford a range of rocky hills crossing ... on each side 
the railroad" and claimed the **[p]leasantest part of the whole route [to be] between 
Springfield and Hartford, along the river" (Journal 7, 72-73). This was daytime, 
however. Later in the evening, while slowly nearing his destination, Thoreau 
complained: "Saw only the glossy panelling of the cars reflected out into the dark, 
like the magnificent lit facade of a row of edifices reaching all the way to 
Philadelphia, except when we stopped and a lanthorn or two showed us a ragged 
boy and the dark buildings of some New Jersey town" (Journal 7, 73). Qualifying 
the elaborate edifice reference, the key word "only" belies that the metaphor has 
sprung from the writer's enthusiasm. Thoreau was more probably bored stiff, 
having had to watch the same reflection for hours. He could not see anything of 
nature, and was instead reminded of a continuous building beyond his window. 
Travelling on from Philadelphia to New York by boat and rail two days later, he 
summed up the new journey: "Uninteresting, except the boat" (Journal 7, 75). 

Back in Concord on December 8, Thoreau returned to his September 

Winter has come unnoticed by me, I have been so busy writing. This is the life 
most lead in respect to Nature. How different from my habitual one! It is hasty, 
coarse, and trivial, as if you were a spindle in a factory. The other is leisurely, 
fine, and glorious, like a flower. In the first case you are merely getting your 
living; in the second you live as you go along. You travel only on roads of the 
proper grade without jar or running off the track, and sweep round the hills by 
beautiful curves. (Journal 7, 80) 

Edmund J. Banfield 87 

source of profit . . . from one of the cleanest, nicest, most entertaining and 
innoxious of pursuits" (Paradise, 1 1). 

"From the doorsteps of the hut we landed on mother earth, for the 
verandas were not floored. Everything was as homely and simple and inexpensive 
as thought and thrift might contrive. Our desire to live in the open air became 
almost compulsory, for though you fly from civilisation and its thralls you cannot 
escape the social instincts of life. The hut became the focus of life other than 
human. . . . [G]rey bead-eyed geckoes craftily stalked moths and beetles and other 
fanatic worshippers of flame as they hastened to sacrifice themselves to the lamp. 
In the walls wasps built terra-cotta warehouses in which to store the semi-animate 
carcasses of spiders and grubs; a solitary bee constructed [a] nondescript comb 
among the books, transforming a favourite copy of Lorna Doone into a solid 
block. Bats, sharp-toothed, and with pin-point eyes, swooped in at one door, 
quartered the roof with brisk eagerness, and departed by the other" {Paradise, 20). 

Beachcombing Instincts 

"Before the rains came thundering on the iron roof of our little hut, the 
washed-out and enfeebled town-dweller who gave way to bitter reflections on the 
first evening of his new career, could hardly have been recognised, thanks to the 
robustious, wholesome effects of the free and vitalising life. Fourteen, frequently 
sixteen, hours of the twenty-four were spent in the open air, ashore and afloat. . . . 

"Is there a human being, taking part in the rough and tumble of the world, 
who can honestly make confession and say that he has completely suffocated 
those inherent instincts of savagedom — joy and patience in the chase, the longing 
for excitement and surprise, the crude selfishness, the delight in getting something 
for nothing? Society journals have informed me that titled dames have been 
known to sit out long and wearisome evenings that they may obtain some paltry 
favour in a cotillion. And when the sea casts up its gifts on these radiant shores, I 
boldly and with glee give way to my Beachcombing instincts and pick and choose. 
Never up to the present have I found anything of real value; but am I not buoyed up 
by pious hopes and sanguine expectations? Is not the game as diverting and as 
innocent as many others that are played to greater profit? It is a game, too, that 
cannot be forced, and therefore cannot become demoralising; and having no nice 
feelings nor fine shades, I rejoice and am glad in it. 

"And then what strange and varied things one sees! . . . Occasionally a 
case of fruit, washed from the decks of a labouring steamer, drifts ashore. One 
was the means of introducing a valuable addition to the products of the island. It 
gave demonstration of how man may unwittingly, and even in opposition to his 
wit, assist in scattering and multiplying blessings on a smiling land — blessings to 
last for all time, and perhaps to amend or ameliorate the environment of a budding 
nation. . . . 

88 The Concord Saunterer 

"Again, a German barque, driven out of its course, found unexpectedly a 
detached portion of the Great Barrier Reef 200 miles away to the south. When the 
south-easters came, they pounded away so vigorously with the heavy guns of the 
sea that in a brief space nothing was left of the big ship save some distorted 
fragments of iron jammed in among the nigger-heads of coral and the crevices of 
the rocks. A few weeks after, portions of the wreck were deposited on Dunk 
Island, and the beach of the mainland for miles was strewn with timber. That 
wreck was the greatest favour bestowed me in my profession of Beachcomber. . . . 

"[T]he grating of the battered barque, upon which many a wet and weary 
steersman had stood, now fulfils placid duty as a front gate. . . . 

"'When there are eight or ten islands and islets within an afternoon's sail, 
and miles of mainland beach to police, variety lends her charms to the pursuit of 
the Beachcomber. Landing in one of the unfrequented coves, he knows not what 
the winds and the tides may have spread out for inspection and acceptance. 
Perhaps only an odd coconut from the Solomon Islands, its husk zoned with 
barnacles. The germ of life may yet be there. To plant the nut above high-water 
mark is an obvious duty. Perhaps there is a paddle, with rude tracery on the 
handle, from the New Hebrides, part of a Fijian canoe that has been bundled over 
the Barrier, a wooden spoon such as the Kanakas use. . . . 

"A mind inclined to casuistry, could it not defend Beachcombing? Does 
not the law recognise it under the definition of trover? Why bother about the law 
and moralities when it is all so pleasing, so engrossing, and so fair?" (Paradise, 

Sounds, Silences and Scents 

"Such is the silence of the bush that the silken rustle of the butterflies 
becomes audible" (Paradise, 58). 

"Here on the verge of the ocean, at the extreme limit of the spit of soft, 
shell-enamelled sand, where the breakers had roared in angry monotone, the ears 
thrill with tender sounds. Though all the winds are dead, the undertones of the sea 
linger in lulling harmonies. The tepid tide on the warm sand crisply rustles and 
hisses as when satin is crumpled and smartly rent. Weird, resonant tappings, 
moans, and gurgles come from a hollow log drifting with infinite slowness. 
Broken sighs and gasps tell where the ripples advancing in echelon wander and 
lose their way among blocks of sandstone. As the tide rose it prattled and gurgled, 
toying with tinkling shells and clinking coral, each one separate and distinct, 
however thin and faint. My solitary watch 7 gives the rare delight of analysing the 
night thoughts of the ocean, profound in its slumber though dreamily conscious of 
recent conflict with the winds. All the frail undertones suppressed during the 
bullying day now have audience. Sounds which crush and crowd have wearied 
and retired. The timid and shy venture forth to join the quiet revelry of the night" 
(Paradise, 59). 

Edmund J. Banfield 89 

"It is night — the thoughtful, watchful, wakeful, guardian night, with no 
cloud to sully its tremulous radiance. How pretty a fable, I reflect, would the 
ancients have associated with the Southern Cross, shimmering there in the serene 
sky? Dare I, at this inspiring moment, attempt what they missed, merely because 
they lacked direct inspiration? Those who once lived in Egypt saw the sumptuous 
southern jewel, and it may again glitter vainly for the bewilderment of the Sphinx 
if the lazy world lurches through space long enough. Yes, let me invent a myth — 
and not tell it, but rather think of the origin of the Milky Way and so convince 
myself of the futility of modern inventions" (Paradise, 60). 

"It is the season of scents, and the native, untended, unpampered plants 
are easily first in an uncatalogued competition. . . . Just now, in some situations, 
the old gold orchid rivals the mango in showiness and fragrance; the pencil orchid 
dangles white aigrettes from the trunks and branches of hundreds of trees, saturat- 
ing the air with a subtle essence as of almonds and honey; and the hoya hangs 
festoons from rocks and trees in such lavish disregard of space and the breathings 
of less virile vegetation, that the sensual scent borders on the excessive. On the 
hill-tops, among rocks gigantic of mould and fantastic of shape, a less known 
orchid with inconspicuous flowers yields a perfume reminiscent of the violet; the 
shady places on the flats are showy with giant crinum lilies. . . . 

"The most elemental of all incenses — that which arises from warm, dry 
soil sprinkled by a sudden shower — is undoubtedly invigorating. . . . An early or 
late arrival among flowers and fruit cannot be hailed or chidden where there is but 
trifling seasonal variation. Without beginning and without end, the perpetual 
motion of tropical vegetation is but slightly influenced by the weather. Who is to 
say that this plant is early or that late, when early or late, like Kiplings's east and 
west, are one?" (Paradise, 64). 

"Many a time, home-returning at night — when the black contours of the 
Island loomed up in the distance against the pure tropic sky tremulous with 
myriads of unsullied stars — has its tepid fragrance drifted across the water as a 
salutation and a greeting. It has long been a fancy of mine that the Island has a 
distinctive odour, soft and pliant, rich and vigorous. Other mixtures of forest and 
jungle may smell as strong, but none has the rare blend which I recognise and gloat 
over whensoever, after infrequent absences for a day or two, I return to accept of it 
in grateful sniffs" (Paradise, 12). 

"Birds and Their Rights" 

"Sired by a sunbeam, born of a flower, gaiety its badge, might be said in 
fable of the sunbird, as in temperament and tint it parades its right to such 
parentage. . . . Garbed in rich olive green, royal blue, and bright yellow, and of a 
quick and lively disposition, small as he is, he is always before his public, never 
forgetful of his appearance, or regardless of his rights. Feeding on honey and on 

90 The Cos cord Saunterer 

insects which frequent honey-supplying flowers ... he flutters and darts among 
the blooms, often sipping on the wing after the habit of the hummingbird — which 
he resembles even to the characteristic expansion of the tail feathers" (Paradise. 

"Australian, truly; but, unlike the emu. the black swan, the lyre-bird, the 
kookaburra, and others, the swap pheasant is not exclusively so. . . . Science 
seems somewhat bewildered by its contrarieties: it is placed among the cuckoos, 
its formal title being Centropus phasianinus — pheasant-like spur-foot — while the 
approved vernacular name is a combination, pheasant-coucal. . . . This earthly 
psalmist of rare felicity in the expression of its emotions seems proud of its gifts 
and fond of exercising them. Harken now to the succession of full-sounding, 
slow, booming notes, accentuated by balanced rests, as if the vocalist were 
conscious of a flawless performance and studied it with the air of a libant, pausing 
between sips of the exquisite" (Paradise. 107). 

"To work out its destiny the night-jar depends on secret doings and on 
flight soft as a falling leaf. It is a bird of the twilight and night" {Paradise. 1 12). 

"On foot a hopeless cripple, on wing the picture of ease and race, the 
swiftlet heels in circles of varying radii . . . swift almost as light, as silent as dawn" 
{Paradise. 108). 

"The scrub fowl is a sagacious bird, not only in the avoidance of the 
dismal duty of incubation, but in respect of the making of those great mounds of 
decaying vegetable matter and earth which perform the function so effectively. . . . 
Though much less in weight than an average domestic fowl, the egg that she lays 
equals nearly three of the fowl's" (Paradise. 1 16). 

Neighbouring Isles 

"The islands immediately to the south-east form the [rest of] the Family 
group — triplets, twins and two singles. I like to think approving things of them; to 
note individual excellences: to familiarise myself with their distinguishing traits; 
to listen to them in their petulance and anger, and in that sobbing subsidence to 
even temper: to their complacent gurglings and sleepy murmurs. . . . 

"The neighbouring islands include Timana. two and a half miles from the 
sandspit of Dunk Island. ... A mile beyond Timana is Bedarra. with its lovely 
little bays and coves and fantastically weathered rocks, its forest and jungle and 
scrub, and its rocky satellite Peerahmah. . . . Toolghar three-quarters of a mile 
from Bedarra: Coomboo half a mile from Toolghar: and the group of three — 
Budjoo. Kurrumbah and Coolah — still further to the south-east" (Paradise. 70). 

This Amplitude of Time and Space 

"Whereas the average town-dweller could not endure the commonplaces 
of Nature which entertain me, rouse my wonder, enliven my imagination, and 

Edmund J. Banfield 91 

gratify my inmost thoughts, so his pursuits are to me devoid of purpose, insipid, 
dismally unsatisfactory. To one whose everyday admission (apology if you like) 
is that he is not as other men are — fond of society and of society's occupations, 
pastimes, refinements, and (pardon) illusions — the unsoiled jungle is more desir- 
able than all the prim parks and clipped gardens; all this amplitude of time and 
space than the one "crowded hour." 8 


1 Beachcomber's Paradise: Selections from the Writings of E.J. Banfield. ed. James 
Porter (Sydney: Angus and Robertson Publishers. 1983). Page references to Paradise 
are cited parenthetically in the text. The selections for Beachcomber's Paradise were 
taken from all four Banfield books: The Confessions of a Beachcomber (London: T. 
Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1908): My Tropic Isle (London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd.. 1911): 
Tropic Days (London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd.. 1918): and Last Leaves from Dunk Island 
(Sydney: Angus and Robertson Ltd.. 1925). 

Following the popular success of his first book. The Confessions, which went 
into several reprints, Banfield was besieged with requests for more — more detail 
about his settling on the island. The result was My Tropic Isle with much more 
description of his initial occupation of the isle, the building of his house, etc.. as well as a 
chapter he called "A Plain Man's Philosophy" outlining some of the thinking which led 
to his abandoning society. The two later books contain mainly nature essays. 

The sectional headings used for this pastiche are not those used by Banfield (with 
the one exception of "Birds and Their Rights"), but were invented for Beachcomber's 
Paradise. The selections here are a complex mixture, mostly from Banfield* s first two 
books, rearranged in what seemed a more logical sequence: and therefore to cite each 
individual reference would unnecessarily clutter such a brief compilation. 

2 The major part of Dunk Island is now a National Park, thanks to Banfield* s early 
recommendations: there is a resort operating on the northern end of the isle where 
Banfield had his farm. 

3 The nearby towns of Tully and Innisfail on the mainland have an annual rainfall of up 
to 4.000 millimetres, or 160 inches. 

4 Tarn O'Shanter Point is a forested headland on the mainland, four miles distant. 

5 The casuarina tree, or beach sheoak, bears long, pinelike needle-leaves which sough 
softly in the slightest breeze. 

6 Purtaboi is the tiny islet half a mile offshore from the crescent of Brammo Bay. 
Banfield' s home beach. 

7 Banfield kept his "solitary watch" — from the protruding sandspit on the northwestern 
tip of the island — for the coming of the weekly steamer from Townsville with his 
much-looked-forward-to mail and groceries. The steamer would heave-to briefly out 
in deep water while Banfield rowed out to it in his dinghy, before it sailed on 
northwards to serve other islands and coastal towns. 

8 Banfield, The Confessions of a Beachcomber, facsimile first (1908) edition, ed. 
Michael Noonan (Brisbane: Univ. of Queensland Press. 1994). This reprint edition of 
The Confessions is the only one of Banfield' s books still in print. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson 
circa 1842 

<<( Ike World Is a ^Divine (Dream": 
"Emerson s Subjective Idealism 

David Lyttle 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, when he was twenty-one years old, concluded 
that "the progress of Metaphysical philosophy may be found to consist in nothing 
else than the progressive introduction of apposite metaphors. Thus the Platonists 
congratulated themselves for ages upon their knowledge that Mind was a dark 
chamber whereon ideas like shadows were painted. Men derided this as infantile 
when they afterwards learned that the Mind was a sheet of white paper whereon 
any & all characters might be written." 1 Although perhaps not a great thinker in 
logic, Emerson was a great thinker in metaphor, clothing his abstract thought time 
and again in images. This essay treats Emerson's philosophy of subjective 
idealism: his development of this philosophy, and his expression of it in meta- 
phors. And I contribute a metaphor of my own, the Theater of True Dream. This 
metaphor, although anachronistic, was suggested to me by some of Emerson's 
light imagery, and helps to clarify his thought. 

I consider, first, how the skepticism of George Berkeley and David 
Hume influenced Emerson in his designation of the external world as appearance 
only. Second, I examine Emerson's rejection of the idea of a "personal God" 
(defined for purposes of this essay as an infinite conscious Being distinct and 
separate from his creations, including man) and Emerson's insistence, based, he 
said, on intuition or a-rational knowledge, that there is an ineffable identity of God 
(or the Universal) and man (or the individual), that, in truth, the two are not two, 
but One. His philosophy, therefore, is monistic. He held that there is only one 
substance or fundamental reality, namely, the subject or "Soul," which is at once 
individual and Universal. 2 Third, I consider Emerson's theme that the inner world 
(the subject) creates the outer world (the object). He has various kinds of 
metaphors that express this theme — some of organicism, such as a seed putting 
forth its flowers, some of liquidity, such as ripples enlarging from a center, and 
some of light, such as the sun radiating its beams. I argue that this theme, in 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

94 The Concord Saunterer 

conjunction with his theory of the identity of God and man. and his designation of 
nature as phenomenal, led directly to his conclusion that God creates the external 
world through the individual. Fourth. I discuss subjective idealism in Nature and 
in "The Transcendentalist." Fifth. I examine how the emergence in Nature of a 
great organic metaphor marks Emerson's transition from objective idealism to 
subjective idealism or what he called "spiritualism. " Sixth, I discuss how Emerson 
solved the problem of solipsism when he discarded the idea of a personal God and 
reduced nature to the creation of mind. 

The World as Idea 

When he was twenty years old, Emerson asked his Aunt Mary: "Who is 
he that can stand up before him [David Hume] & prove the existence of the 
Universe, & of its Founder?" 3 The young man at first pretended to be a skeptic 
about the reality of the external world, but soon realized that in fact the only thing 
he knew with certainty was himself. Later, he informed his Aunt: "I know that I 
exist, but the age and the Universe are alike abstractions of my own mind, and 
have no pretensions to the same definitive certainty.*" 4 And in an early undated 
prose fragment, he observed, commenting on the "Ideal Theory," that "it is an 
interesting inquiry, to examine our knowledge of [the] material world. . . . What 
are the foundations of our belief of its existence [?}" The senses, he continued, tell 
us about an external world, but 

there is no reason why your senses should not be decieved [sic]. . . . Are you sure 
that you are not dreaming now? . . . The senses cannot ascertain their own truth or 
their relation to the qualities which so affect them and of which they inform the 
mind. It is manifest, then that we have no knowledge of the substances which 
affect the senses. . . . Perhaps there are a multitude of minds in a corner of space 
deeming themselves surrounded with bodies and a vast universe which exists 
alone in their own imaginations. Perhaps space is peopled with these little 
assemblies of disembodied dreamers. 5 

The recognition by Emerson that he could not absolutely prove that the actual 
world (in spite of its beauty and practical value) was as real as he. that he could not 
prove that he did not dream his world, and that he could not prove that he was not 
alone with his world, was deep and long lasting. In 1827. when he was studying 
for his divinity degree, he could even joke about these ideas, once using them 
humorously to tease his brother Charles: 

As you exist to yourself & as you exist to me. you are two persons, darling. I. as 
may be proved, have no knowledge. & of course, no care of thy real existence, 
thy consciousness. I know not what thou art. You may be full of pains & 

David Lyttle 95 

hypocrisies or daemons. . . . You may be a wandered angel. . . . With all this I 
have no manner of concern. . . . But to me, you exist only for my use & behoof. 
I am to make of you an instrument of pleasure as much as I can. ... I write to thee 
not as thou art but as I am able to make thee appear. I am not affectionate to thee 
but to my image of thee. When I praise or admire or love thee, in terms, be 
perfectly assured it is not thine but mine which I applaud. And be sure that this 
tractate is no rag of Pyrrho nor yet of Berkley [sic] but a sweet tissue of my own, 
of which the warp was taken from the one. & the woof from the other. ... I leave 
you to demolish my cobweb in your next letter. 

Consequently, by the time he was twenty-four, Emerson was well on his 
way in developing the "cobweb" of his youthful skepticism about the reality of the 
objective world into the steel framework of his subjective idealism. In 1834 he 
wrote his brother Edward that "philosophy affirms that the outward world is only 
phenomenal ... an intricate dream — the exhalation of the present state of the 
Soul." 7 By the autumn of 1836. he had written Nature in which he argued, 
especially in the chapter "Idealism," that nature is what we might call true dream. 
And two years after that in the lecture "Love." he observed: 

In strict philosophy there is a quite infinite distance between our knowledge of 
our own existence and the evidence we have for the existence of nature including 
that of other persons. In Logic the position of the Idealist is inexpugnable who 
persists in regarding men as appearances and phantoms merely which represent 
to him his own ideas in the masquerade of forms like his own. But when we treat 
Human Life ... we must descend from this high ground of absolute science and 
converse with things as they appear. 

Various critics disparage Emerson's idealism, for one reason or another. 
Stephen E. Whicher, for example, refers to the "rapt repudiation of the outer world 
. . . [that was] a powerful recurrent movement in Emerson's spirit, in his earlier as 
in his later years," and has some disparaging things to say about his "technique of 
victory by disengagement." But Emerson's idealism was more than simply a 
"recurrent movement" of his temperament; it was the framework of his entire 
outlook on life. 9 And he hardly repudiated "the outer world." In practical affairs 
(as the previous quotation indicates), he balanced his idealism with his pragma- 
tism, treating nature as though it were real. In philosophy he argued that although 
nature is not fundamental reality, it is the necessary expression of spirit. He 
sought to nullify the tyranny, not the discipline, of the object. In answer to 
Whicher' s criticism that Emerson used his idealism to gain "victory by disengage- 
ment," one might reply that the wise man knows that sometimes discretion is the 
better part of valor, that sometimes one should retreat from the dark and terrible to 
regroup his resources and prepare for a return to the field of battle with greater 
strength, more subtle strategies. 

96 The Concord Saunterer 

Joel Porte comments that "Emerson was driven to accept the Ideal theory 
because he found sense experience distasteful but not at all because he really 
believed the world was an illusion."' 10 This is difficult to believe on both counts. 
With the possible exceptions of his deafness to music and his commonplace 
Victorian prudishness about sex. Emerson delighted in sense experiences, such as 
eating, walking in nature, sailing on the ocean. Apparently critics of his own time 
leveled the same charge, but he denied it: "I see with as much pleasure as another 
a field of corn or a rich pasture, whilst I dispute their absolute being. Their 
phenomenal being. I no more dispute than I do my own. I do not dispute but point 
out the just way of viewing them" (JMN , 5: 124). And he believed that the "just 
way of viewing them." we have said, is to view them as true dream. 

The twentieth-century reader may smile cynically at the statement in 
Nature that "'the advantage of the ideal theory over the popular faith [in the 
substantiality of matter], is this, that it presents the world in precisely that view 
which is most desirable to the mind." 1 1 But why should one assume that a true 
philosophy should not be desirable to the mind? Two facts are (1) that Emerson 
believed that spirit is primary to matter and (2) that he and the world belonged 
together. In addition, the ideal theory was, for him at least, most congenial to his 
constitutional sensitivity to the existential solitude and divine dignity of the 
individual. In sum, Emerson's early skepticism about the reality of "the outer 
world" became the foundation of his mature philosophy. He said in 1839: "There 
are degrees in idealism. We learn first to play with it academically. . . . Then we 
see in the heyday of youth & poetry that it may be true. . . . Then its countenance 
waxes stern & grand. & we see that it must be true. It now shows itself ethical & 
practical. We learn that God Is: that he is in <us> me; & that all things are 
shadows of him" (JMN, 7:215-16). 

The Inner Universal 

Emerson may be characterized as a religious atheist when an atheist is 
defined as a person who does not believe in a personal God. and when a religious 
person is defined as someone who believes that the material world is created by 
and dependent upon spiritual reality. But whether or not one wishes to character- 
ize him this way. Emerson's skepticism about the reality of "the outer world" 
correlates with his skepticism about the existence of an external personal deity. 
He noted in 1836: "Oct. 19. As long as the soul seeks an external God, it never can 
have peace, it always must be uncertain what may be done & what may become of 
it" (JMN, 5:223). Several observations remind the reader of his position. 

Emerson was profoundly influenced by the English philosophic idealist 
George Berkeley. Berkeley, defending the hypothesis of a personal God. argued 
that although the existence of the external world depended upon perception, most 
of it did not depend upon his (Berkeley's) perception. Rather, it depended upon 

David Lyttle 97 

the perception of a mind other than his, that mind being God. The twentieth- 
century English philosopher G. J. Warnock writes: 

Berkeley finds that, of some of his ideas, he can suppose that his own mind is the 
cause. "It is no more than willing, and straightway this or that idea arises in my 
fancy." This, however, does not take him far; for he finds that "the ideas actually 
perceived by sense have not a like dependence on my will." I can, within limits, 
decide what to look at or listen to; but if I look out of my window in broad 
daylight, I cannot then decide what to see. The world outside is simply there to be 
seen, and I cannot choose but see it so long as I look. Such ideas I then have are 
not "creatures of my will." "There is therefore some other will or spirit that 
produces them." This spirit, Berkeley concludes, can only be God. 12 

Emerson not only agreed with Berkeley that most of "the ideas actually 
perceived by sense" did not depend upon the ego, but affirmed also that he was 
often inspired by power beyond his conscious will. He stated in the "Over-Soul": 
"Man is a stream whose source is hidden. ... I am constrained every moment to 
acknowledge a higher origin for events than the will I call mine" (CW, 2:159). 
However, certainly by the late thirties, he had come to disagree with Berkeley that 
"some other will or spirit," distinct and separate from him, created "the ideas 
actually perceived by sense," and was the origin of religious and aesthetic inspira- 
tion. His experience was not of such a spirit; and he would not accept on hearsay 
that such a spirit existed. Consequently, he concluded that the "extraordinary 
power" that created and, to a large extent, controlled nature, although greater than 
his ego and "beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect" (CW, 
3:16, 15), was not other than he, and that, therefore, the Being he was, was far 
greater than he had been aware. Indeed, he gradually became convinced that he 
and God, the individual and the Universal, were one identity. 13 

That Emerson gradually but firmly rejected the idea of a personal God is 
evidenced by the fact that he stopped praying in a conventional sense. His 
daughter Ellen recalled: "Now began what Mother called Transcendental Times. 
Either now [about 1 840] or earlier Father gave up family prayers. . . . Now it was 
clear to her [Lidian] that he was not a Christian in her sense of the word, and it was 
a most bitter discovery." 14 In "Self- Reliance" Emerson wrote that "Prayer is the 
contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy 
of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works 
good" (CW, 2:44). Prayer, for the mature Emerson, was not person to Person 
communication but Being relishing Being, the individual/Universal meditating 
upon itself, the individual abandoning egotism for the inherent wisdom of "the 
nature of things. ... As the traveller who has lost his way, throws his reins on his 
horse's neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so we must do 
with the divine animal who carries us through this world" (CW, 3:15-16). 

98 The Concord Savnterer 

Needless to say, Emerson's theory of the identity of God and man was 
(and is) extremely radical, even within his liberal religious tradition. Ellis Gray 
Loring remarked (about 1838) that Emerson "does not believe, or rather he 
positively d/sbelieves in anything out of himself. He carries idealism to the 
Extreme, Consequently if there is a God, he is God. God & he are one." 15 And 
Whicher writes that "the simple key to his [Emerson's] mature faith and strength 
. . . was the knowledge that the soul of man does not merely, as had long been 
taught, contain a spark or drop or breath or voice of God; it is God." Emerson was 
not interested, as were the rationalistic Unitarians, in merely sharing attributes 
with a personal God. He sought above all, Whicher says, "what Edwards, what 
New Englanders, had always wanted, an assured salvation, not simply moral 
capacity." 16 He found this salvation neither in prayer to, nor in glorification of, 
another person, but (as W. R. Inge phrases it in another context) in "something 
much closer than an ethical harmony of two mutually exclusive wills." 17 

In his journal for 1837, Emerson recorded (but not surprisingly did not 
deem expedient to proclaim publicly in a sermon or a lecture) that "in certain 
moments I have known that I existed directly from God, and am, as it were, his 
organ. And in my ultimate consciousness Am He" (JMN, 5:337). But the truth of 
the matter is that he soon realized that the Being he was was more than this — that 
he was more than God. He assured himself in 1840: "Do not imagine that the 
Universe is somewhat so vague & aloof that a man cannot be willing to die for it. 
If that lives, I live. I am the Universe. The Universe is the externisation [sic] of 
God. Wherever he is, that bursts into appearance around him. The sun, the stars, 
physics & chemistry we sensually treat as if they were selfexistences [sic] and do 
not yet see that these are the retinue of that Being we are" (JMN, 7:542). 

When Emerson said that he was "the Universe," he made an inclusive, 
not an exclusive, statement. He denied (while at the same time celebrating the 
individual and preaching self-reliance) that he was King of the universe, self- 
elected to impose his private ego-will on any other aspect of the universe. When 
he said that he was the universe he meant that he was literally the entire universe, 
the whole kit and caboodle: God, Ralph Waldo, and all nature, including his own 
body and all other people. In fact, he believed not only that the Being he was was 
the universe, but that there was no other universe but the one he was. In 1842, just 
after his son Waldo died, Samson Reed spoke to him of "the other world." "Other 
world?" Emerson snorted in reply, "there is no other world; here or nowhere is the 
whole fact" (JMN, 8:183). He insisted that he was, that each individual is, all 
reality, here, now, that there is nothing else but your universe, that this is the Being 
you are, in all its mysteriousness, that there is nothing else upon which to rely, and 
that you had better treat the universe as you do your immediate body, with awe and 
consideration. In short, Emerson sought a philosophy that conceptualized his 
intuition that he was one with, that he was, all Being, all fundamental reality. He 
came to believe that Being is a bipolar monism of subject and object, that the 
subject (the Soul transcending time and space) is, paradoxically, at once the 

David Lyttle 99 

individual and the Universal, and that the temporal and spatial object (nature) is 
the creation of the subject and has no substantial existence but is appearance only. 

Subjective Idealism 

In the previously quoted letter of 1827 to Charles, Emerson claimed that 
his philosophic position was eclectic, taken from the skeptics and Berkeley, with a 
"sweet tissue" of his own added. What was this "sweet tissue"? Critics agree that 
Emerson was not an original thinker in schematic abstractions; and he would have 
agreed with thanks. But he was an original thinker insofar as he dared to hold 
steadily to subjective idealism against the disbelieving community of common 
sense, and insofar as he added to the American tradition of idealism the idea that 
experience is created by the Universal through the individual or by the two 

All of the members of the Transcendental Club, including the charter 
members — George Ripley, Frederic Hedge, Bronson Alcott, Convers Francis, 
James Freeman Clarke, Orestes Brownson — were philosophic idealists who held 
that matter is the creation of mind. And all of the members of the Club, including 
those who later joined, such as Theodore Parker and even Samuel Johnson, were, 
except for Emerson (and possibly the early Alcott), theists who believed that God 
is an "infinite person," an objective Being distinct and separate from His creations 
of men and nature. Emerson, however, unlike the others, held that God is 
impersonal and "within," and that God creates the "outer" world through or in 
conjunction with the individual. In fact, this conclusion must follow from his 
belief in an impersonal inner God. Thus his idealism differs sharply from that of 
the other Transcendentalists, and may be called "subjective" in distinction to 
"objective" idealism. 18 

In Nature, in the section "Spirit," Emerson presents us with an orignal 
organic metaphor of subjective idealism: the divine spirit "does not act upon us 
from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves. 
Therefore, that spirit, that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around 
us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and 
leaves through the pores of the old" (CW, 1:38). Indeed, throughout his work, 
Emerson presents variations of this theme of the "inner" creating the "outer." A 
few examples follow. He observed in "The Over-Soul" that "the Highest dwells 
with him [the individual]; ... the sources of nature are in his own mind"(CW, 
2: 174). In the journal he stated that "all nature is only the foliage, the flowering, & 
the fruit of the Soul and . . . every part therefore exists as an emblem & sign, of 
some fact in the soul" (JMN, 5:366). "The Soul contains in itself the event that 
shall presently befal [sic] it for the event is only the actualization of its thoughts" 
(JMN, 5:371). And in a later journal entry, he wrote: "Man in nature [is] a suction 
pipe through which the world flows. No force but is his force" (JMN, 12:238). 

100 The Concord Savnterer 

Elsewhere he affirmed that "poetry begins, or all becomes poetry when we look 
from the centre outward, and are using all as if the mind made it. That only can we 
see which we are, and which we make." 19 In general, the idea that the outer world 
grows out of the inner world, as a flower grows from a seed, expresses Emerson's 
"organic" philosophy. 

But the metaphor I offer here to help clarify the thought of Emerson is not 
"organic" but based on his preoccupation with the act of seeing and is suggested 
by many of his metaphors of light, especially by his memorable statement in "The 
Over-Soul" that "from within or from behind, a light shines through us upon 
things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all" (CW, 2:161). 
I call this metaphor Emerson's Theater of True Dream. 20 The triadic motif for this 
Theater is: God is the Light, the individual is the lens, and nature is the picture. 
We, as individuals, sit in our seats, alone, each of us a lens through whom the 
Light is projected to produce before us the apparent world of nature. The indi- 
vidual (each of us as subject) watches the interplay of his body with other bodies 
(as objects) as they appear as phenomena before him on the screen. The individual 
does not experience other individuals directly. Acquaintances, friends, even 
lovers, are to each other not substantial but appearance only, images on the 
screen. 21 There is always something unreal about them; they are part of the Not 
Me, of nature. In truth, all relationships for Emerson are phenomenal, not real. 
Hence the Theater is like a movie house, not like a theater of stage plays or plays 
in the round; there is no direct give-and-take between the individual and the 
figures on the screen. There is only the Light (the Universal), the lens (the 
individual), and the images. This Theater, Emerson would say, is the one world of 
You; You alone are real; "all other men" are phenomenal. Emerson affirms 
solitude as a given condition of Being, the signature of divinity, the ground of self- 

In the Theater of True Dream, the Light and the lens are reality, and the 
picture (nature) is appearance. No one part of this triadic motif of his monism can 
be separated from the other two, or the theater goes dark. The ontological progres- 
sion from the Light through the lens to the picture is from the Universal through 
the individual to phenomenal events of the picture, from eternity to space-time, 
from subjectivity to objectivity, from within to without. Although this metaphor of 
the Theater hardly solves all the problems of Emerson, it acknowledges his claim 
of the ineffable identity of God and man; it acknowledges his skepticism about the 
substantiality of matter; it acknowledges the "consanguinity" he felt between the 
individual and nature; it acknowledges his motif of the individual (as transcenden- 
tal subject) at the center of nature; and it acknowledges his belief that the 
individual has a necessary and critical role in the creation of the outer world. The 
individual, for Emerson, is where creation occurs; without the individual nothing 
would exist. 

David Lyttle 101 

Subjective Idealism in Nature and "The Transcendentalist" 

In Nature, in the chapter "Idealism," Emerson argues against a dualism 
and for a monism of mind and matter. His position is that spirit creates matter, and 
that, therefore, matter, although necessary, is subservient to spirit. However, in 
the following chapter, "Spirit," he seems to have reservations about idealism. But 
he is not inconsistent; he is speaking about two kinds of idealism. In fact, Nature 
is a statement of his philosophy in progress. His developing thought about 
philosophic idealism and his related emotional tension, at this point in his career, 
are as follows. 

In "Spirit" he says that idealism should be abandoned 1) if it "leaves God 
out of me," and 2) if it "leaves me in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to 
wander without end" (CW, 1 :37), but calls idealism "a useful introductory hypoth- 
esis" (CW, 1:38) because, as he has shown in the preceding chapter, it supports his 
fundamental philosophic belief that mind, not matter, is reality. Now, it is evident 
that when he advises that idealism should be abandoned when it "leaves God out 
of me," he is referring to objective idealism, like Berkeley's, which (in Emerson's 
view) does leave God out of him by positing a personal God distinct and separate 
from men. He therefore believes that objective idealism should be abandoned and 
replaced by what he calls "spiritualism" and what, in this essay, is called "subjec- 
tive idealism" that places God within. In regard to the second point, we shall see 
later how Emerson's version of subjective idealism saved him from the labyrinthian 
fantasy of his private ego. 

Also in the chapter "Spirit," Emerson complains that "the heart resists" 
idealism because it "baulks [sic] the affections by denying substantive being to 
men and women" (CW, 1:37-38). Here, he is obviously referring to subjective 
idealism, because in objective idealism, again like Berkeley's, "men and women" 
are assumed to have substantive being; they are separate and distinct spirits 
created by God. But, as we have seen, in subjective idealism (which is monistic), 
"other people" belong to nature, and thus are appearance only. However, Emerson 
does not say that subjective idealism should be abandoned; he says only that the 
"heart resists" it, demanding otherness. 

Consequently, we find in "Spirit," as we do throughout his work, tension 
in Emerson between the inner God and the outer world, between the Me and the 
Not Me (including other people). He would like to give equal value to both, and 
usually caters to this desire by falling back on his concept of the "double con- 
sciousness." But in the final analysis, he cannot give equal value to both: the Me, 
the creator, has priority over the Not Me, the created. Thus he chooses, under 
tension, the inner God over the phenomenal world. He gives priority to the 
intuition of assured salvation over problematic relations with other people. His 
lament in "Experience" that grief over his son's death can teach him nothing of 
"real nature," for example, testifies memorably to this priority (CW, 3:29). He 

102 The Concord Saunterer 

half wished otherwise, but his beloved Waldo, as a phenomenon, did not have 
equal value with the noumenal inner world. He wrote Caroline Sturgis that "this 
fact [Waldo's death] takes no more deep hold than other facts, is as dreamlike as 
they; a lambent flame that will not burn playing on the surface of my river." 22 

A passage in "The Transcendentalism" his philosophic manifesto of 
1841, in which he reaffirmed his original ideas in Nature and Essays: First Series, 
exhibits also the tension Emerson felt between the divine and human worlds. 
Moreover, it illustrates difficulties of language with which he was faced in trying 
to communicate his radical thought, and it presents another fine metaphor of his 
subjective idealism. First, he writes that "the idealist has another measure, which 
is metaphysical, namely, the rank which things themselves take in his conscious- 
ness; not at all, the size or appearance. Mind is the only reality, of which men and 
all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, literature, history, are only 
subjective phenomena" (CW, 1:203). The reader should not be led astray by his 
language. Since he held that subjectivity is reality, the terminology of the last 
sentence appears to be at odds with his philosophy. To have been consistent, he 
should have said that nature, literature, history are only objective phenomena. 
(What he means, of course, is that the reality of "nature, literature, and history" 
depends upon the interpreter.) But here, as elsewhere, he sacrifices technicalities 
of his philosophy to communication with his layman audiences. 

Second, Emerson speaks about the tension he feels between himself and 
society: "Although in his [the Transcendentalisms] action overpowered by the 
laws of action, and so. warmly cooperating with men, even preferring them to 
himself, yet when he [the Transcendentalist] speaks scientifically, or after the 
order of thought [after his metaphysical ranking referred to above], he is con- 
strained to degrade persons into representatives of truths" (CW, 1:203). Thus 
Emerson, from the high subjective perspective, is forced against the protests of 
human affection and love of cooperation with others, to "degrade" persons to an 
ontological ranking lower than the ranking the Understanding gives them; he sees 
them to be "representatives of truths," not truths themselves. 23 

Third, he then gives another metaphor of subjective idealism. The 
Transcendentalist' s "thought, — that is the Universe. His experience inclines him 
to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as flowing perpetually 
outward from an invisible, unsounded centre in himself, centre alike of him and of 
them, and necessitating him to regard all things as having a subjective or relative 
existence, relative to that aforesaid Unknown Centre of him" (CW, 1 :203). And in 
his journal, around this time, Emerson noted that "the world flows ever from the 
soul" (JMN, 7:499; 1840). Thus the individual, in the triadic motif, is between 
reality and appearance; he is the lens between the Light and the picture. 

In short, Emerson, in his subjective idealism, relinquished the idea that 
there are real persons with substantial relations. He placed the Universal "within," 
assuring himself of salvation and "degrading" men and women on the "outside" to 

David Lyttle 103 

appearance only. But although he made this decision firmly and lastingly, he 
made it reluctantly. His remark that idealism "baulks the affections" expresses his 
sensitivity to the psychological dangers of philosophically relegating the warm 
momentary outer world to dream. Of course, he said that in practice we should 
"treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are" 
(CW, 3:35). Indeed, he himself celebrated each (apparent) individual as an 
incarnation of the Universal. 

The Emergence in Nature of a Great Metaphor, and the Transition from 
Idealism to "Spiritualism" 

Emerson remarked in the chapter "Language," in Nature, that "a man 
conversing in earnest . . . will find that always a material image, more or less 
luminous, arises in his mind, contemporaneous with every thought, which fur- 
nishes the vestment of the thought" (CW, 1 :20). The contention in this essay is that 
the metaphor, in the chapter "Spirit," about the "Supreme Being" putting nature 
"forth through us" (CW, 1:38), written in the summer of 1836, is Emerson's first 
definitive "vestment" of his subjective idealism. This metaphor anchors in nature 
his abstract speculations that the inner deity creates the external world though the 

Are there in Nature signs of development toward subjective idealism 
earlier than chapter seven, "Spirit"? The key to Emerson's unique idealism is the 
triadic motif: God-man-nature, Light-lens-picture, not God-nature-man, as in 
objective idealism. Following are selected statements in Nature, which precede 
"Spirit," and which are compatible with objective idealism but which do not 
contain the required triadic motif. In chapter four, "Language," Emerson states: 
"Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact" (CW, 1:18); "This relation 
between mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of 
God, and so is free to be known by all men"(CW, 1 :22); "A Fact is the end or last 
issue of spirit" (CW, 1:22). The statement that "man is conscious of a universal 
soul within or behind his individual life" (CW, 1:18), with the word "behind," 
might be said to give a shadowy adumbration of the triadic motif. 

In chapter five, "Discipline," Emerson says that "Nature is thoroughly 
mediate. It is made to serve" (CW, 1 :25). This statement, like the ones above, does 
not necessitate his theme of subjective idealism; each of them can be (and usually 
is, when thought about at all) interpreted to refer to the conventional ideas that a 
personal God made nature independent of man, and that nature is the medium, 
external to man, through which God communicates to his created creatures. 

In chapter six, "Idealism," Emerson takes a more subjective stance. He 
questions the substantiality of nature, stating that "Reason" or spiritual vision 
"shows us nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat" (CW, 1:30). The effect of this 
statement is to psychologize the material world, to suggest that its ontology is 

104 The Concord Saunterer 

relative to, or dependent upon, the mind, that nature, rightly seen, is ethereal and 
dreamlike, not a substance in itself. "If the Reason be stimulated to more earnest 
vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes 
and spirits are seen through them. The best, the happiest moments of life, are these 
delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential withdrawing of 
nature before its God" (CW, 1:30). These statements are still within the domain of 
objective idealism, but now the spatial positions of God, man, and nature, in the 
triadic motif, are shifting and vague. Who or what, for instance, is nature's 
"God"? — certainly not an external personal God. So where is God now — within 
man? Man is coming to be the center of attention. Man is whom nature floats 

Near the end of "Idealism," Emerson states decisively that "Idealism sees 
the world in God," and presents us with a metaphor, beautiful in its elusiveness, 
that nature is "one vast picture, which God paints on the instant eternity, for the 
contemplation of the soul" (CW, 1:36). Then, in the following chapter, "Spirit," 
we are informed that nature "always speaks of Spirit. ... It is a great shadow 
pointing always to the sun behind us" (CW, 1 :37). And this metaphor provides the 
triadic key we are looking for (God-man-nature), and is the first real hint of 
subjective idealism in Nature. 

Emerson had transposed the above metaphor from a journal entry for 
June 7: nature "is the great shadow pointing to an unseen Sun" (JMN, 5:171). But 
this early version of the metaphor does not fulfill the triadic motif. In it, man is not 
mentioned, and nature is "a great shadow" of what? — of Platonic realities, as in 
the passage Emerson had written earlier in life, when he was first reading Plato: 
"Mind was a dark chamber whereon ideas like shadows were painted"? (JMN, 
2:225). But when Emerson added the words "behind us" to the metaphor (when 
he put it into Nature) he made a subtle but major shift in perspective; he created 
a new vision. He placed man ("us") between the sun and nature, thereby assuring 
man of his role in creation, and fulfilling the triadic motif of subjective idealism. 
Furthermore, Emerson followed the original metaphor in the journal with observa- 
tions that point to the version in Nature : "Certainly children believe in an external 
world. The belief that it appears only, is an afterthought but on the human 
faculties if cultured this will as surely dawn as did the first faith. . . . The man is 
creator of his world" (JMN, 5: 172). 

Several paragraphs later in Nature, after the above metaphor with the 
triadic motif, Emerson wrote that "the Supreme Being, does not build up nature 
around us, but puts it forth through us" (CW, 1:38). And this image in Nature was 
also preceded by an earlier version in the journal. On July 30, 1836, he had 
written: "Man is the point wherein matter & spirit meet & marry. The Idealist 
says, God paints the world around your soul. The spiritualist saith, Yea, but lo! 
God is within you. The self of self creates the world through you, & organizations 
like you. The Universal Central Soul comes to the surface in my body" (JMN, 

David Lyttle 105 

5:187). In addition. Emerson, in this passage, equates the terms "idealist" and 
"spiritualist" with objective and subjective idealism. And this supports my 
contention that he presents in the "Idealism" and "Spirit" chapters in Nature the 
development of his thought from objective to subjective idealism. 

Further evidence that Emerson developed his theory of "spiritualism" in 
the summer of 1836 is his journal entry for June 22: "Mr. Alcott has been here 
with his Olympian dreams. He is a world-builder. Ever more he toils to solve the 
problem. Whence is the World? . . . The Whole. — Nature proceeding from 
himself, is what he studies" (JMN. 5: 178). Evidently Emerson and Alcott had 
been discussing the general theme of the inward creating the outward, and were in 
agreement about raising it to a cosmic level. 24 Later in the same journal entry, 
Emerson, doubtless inspired by his dialogue with Alcott, wrote: "Man is the dwarf 
of himself[.] Is it not true that spirit in us is dwarfed by clay? that once Man was 
permeated & dissolved by spirit? He filled Nature with his overflowing currents. 
Out of him sprang the sun & moon" (JMN , 5: 179). This is the early draft of the 
famous passage in the last chapter of Nature, in which he goes on to say that "the 
laws of his [man's] mind, the periods of his actions externized [sic] themselves 
into day and night, into the year and the seasons" (CW, 1:42) — certainly a 
statement of "spiritualism." 

How much Alcott helped Emerson formulate his subjective idealism, we 
probably shall never know. But Alcott. without question, was that "certain poet" 
whom Emerson mentions a few paragraphs earlier in "Spirit" (CW, 1:41), who 
sang to him, and whom he used as a persona to put before the public a poetic 
statement that expressed a philosophic speculation he was taking very seriously. 
In any case, the evidence is that Emerson reached, certainly in metaphor, a 
definitive position on subjective idealism between June 7 and July 30. or a little 
later, in the summer of 1836. 

Emerson Solves a Problem of Solipsism 

Originally, Emerson had planned to write one essay entitled "Nature," 
and to follow this essay with another entitled "Spirit." and then to make one book, 
entitled Nature, out of these two essays. This book was to be (and was) published 
in the fall of 1 836. By the late spring and early part of the summer of that year, he 
had not yet completed "Spirit." While he was working on this essay, he apparently 
realized that he had a problem in uniting the two essays, "Nature" and "Spirit." 
On August 8, 1836. just before he finished the final draft of Nature, he wrote his 
brother William that "the book of Nature still lies on the table. There is. as always, 
one crack in it not easy to be soldered or welded." 25 

The problem Emerson had in mind, when he wrote William, was not how 
to relate soul and nature. His philosophy, I have said, is not a dualism of two 
radically different substances, mind and matter, but a bipolar monism, consisting 

106 The Concord Saunterer 

in the two poles of subject and object, the latter pole being the expression of the 
former, as his theory of correspondence, which he discusses in the first part of 
Nature, and which he championed the rest of his life, demands. Moreover, he was 
fully accustomed to thinking of nature as a creation of mind for over a decade 
before he wrote Nature. 

Possibly the problem he had in mind was about the discrepancy between 
the ideal and actual worlds, between the idealistic assumption that the world is 
made for man and the reality of natural evil. This problem is the bane of most 
theologies, including Emerson's, and was suddenly driven home to him by the 
death of his brother Charles on May 9, 1836. But since this was already a major 
problem for him, created by the traumatic death of his first love, Ellen, five years 
earlier, I doubt that he would have referred to it as a mere "crack." 

I suggest that his problem (if, in fact, he had one) was about his rejection, 
around this time, of the idea of a personal God. More exactly, it was about how he 
could hold at once, first, that a personal God does not exist; second, that mind 
creates matter; and third, that nature was not his private dream. In other words, his 
problem was how in theory he could escape the conclusion that the whimsical and 
exclusive ego was in charge of "the nature of things" (CW, 1:37) when he 
discarded the idea of an external God and still retained the idea that nature is the 
creation of mind. I suggest that he closed this problem for himself by giving his 
amorphous meditations the "vesture" of his metaphor, in Nature, of subjective 

Emerson's transition from objective idealism (inappropriate to his intu- 
ition of the identity of God and man) to subjective idealism (appropriate to that 
intuition) is demonstrated by the difference between the paragraph in "Spirit" 
about idealism balking the affections (CW, 1:37-38), and the following one 
containing his organic metaphor of nature being put "forth through us" (CW, 
1:38). The sequence of thoughts in the two paragraphs runs as follows: "Idealism 
saith: matter is phenomenon, not a substance. Idealism acquaints us with the total 
disparity between the evidence of our own being, and the evidence of the world's 
being. The one is perfect [our existence is self-evident]; the other, incapable of 
any assurance [the reality of nature is problematic]; the mind is part of the nature 
of things" (CW, 1:37). In other words, idealism taught Emerson that spirit is real 
and that matter is appearance only. The statement that "the mind is part of the 
nature of things" simply expresses his idea that mind is not an accident of the 
material world but a necessary part; it is, in truth, the creator of that world. 

Emerson then states that "the world is a divine dream, from which we 
may presently awake to the glories and certainties of day" (CW, 1:37). That is, for 
the idealist, the beauty of the world is a hint and foreshadowing of a higher reality. 
But then, next, he complains, as we have seen, that, on the one hand, idealism 
"leaves God out of me" (objective idealism), and, on the other, idealism leaves me 
"in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to wander without end" (solipsistic 

David Lyttle 107 

idealism). In addition, he records his belief that idealism "baulks the affections in 
denying substantive being to men and women," and his belief that (objective) 
idealism even fails to "account for that consanguinity which we acknowledge to it 
[nature]" (CW, 1:38). Thus Emerson states 1) that nature is a symbol of mind or 
higher reality, and 2) that idealism is "a useful hypothesis" as a first step in a true 
philosophy, for it posits mind over matter. But then he realized that positing mind 
over matter does not take him far enough in the direction he wishes to go. That 
direction is away from the theism of a personal God and toward a philosophy of 
the identity of God and man. And this raised another problem: If a personal God 
does not exist, whose mind creates matter? Ralph Waldo seemed to be left alone 
in a world of the solipsistic ego "to wander without end." 

In the next paragraph in "Spirit," Emerson repeats a series of questions, 
leaving out the question "What is matter?" because he has surely answered that it 
is phenomenal. He asks again: "Whence is it [nature]?" His answer is that it 
comes from spirit. But, again, whose spirit? Certainly not his ego; nature cannot 
be a self-reverberating echo of the mere ego. If nature is a significant and 
trustworthy symbolic message from which the human consciousness can learn, it 
must be the creation of the ground of Being or universal spirit. But such a spirit, 
Emerson is now convinced, is not a personal God. Where, then, does nature come 
from? And suddenly he realizes the startling implication of his growing convic- 
tion that God is "within." For if God is within, nature must come from within; it 
must be a message from the infinite part of "his own" Being, beyond conscious- 
ness. Consequently, he writes that "the Supreme Being, does not build up nature 
around us, but puts it forth through us." 

The logic of the above great metaphor guarantees that nature (including 
other people), although phenomenal, is not a text concocted by the ego but the 
divine language of the inner Universal. Nature, for Emerson, is true dream. It is 
dream because it is phenomenal. And it is true because 1) it is the creation of God 
and man, 2) the laws of the Universal apply equally to every aspect of the Whole, 
and therefore 3) the ego-will is not privileged over the rest of nature. In these two 
paragraphs, one relives Emerson's successful struggle of imagination to learn by 
metaphor how to define the world as your world but not the world of your ego — 
your world, but not yours in selfishness. He thereby replaced Plato's metaphor in 
which the "Mind is a dark chamber whereon ideas like shadows were painted," 
and replaced Locke's metaphor in which "the Mind was a sheet of white paper 
whereon any & all characters might be written" (JMN, 2:225) with his own 
metaphors of "spiritualism." These metaphors, mainly of organicism and of light, 
add emotional depth to his celebration of the individual, and express most coher- 
ently and comprehensively the deepest levels of his philosophy after 1836. 

108 The Concord Saunterer 


1 The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. William H. 
Gilman et al., 16 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1960-1982), 2:224-25; 
1824. Hereafter designated in the text as JMN. 

2 See my essay, "Emerson's Transcendental Individualism" in The Concord Saunterer, 
N.S. Volume 3 (Fall 1995), 89-103. 

3 The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Ralph L. Rusk, 6 vols. (New York: 
Columbia Univ. Press, 1939), 1:138. 

4 The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo 
Emerson Forbes, 10 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1910-1914), 2:101. 

5 Letters, 6:337-38. 

6 Letters, 1:214; October 10, 1827. 

7 Letters, 1:412; May 31, 1834. 

8 The Early Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Stephen E. Whicher et al., 3 vols. 
(Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ., 1959, 1964, 1972), 3:56. 

9 Stephen E. Whicher, Freedom and Fate: An Inner Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson 
(1953; rpt. New York: Barnes, 1961), 133-34. Whicher gives the impression that 
Emerson rejected his idealism after the early forties. But in fact, Whicher does not say 
this. He says that "Emerson moved from a subjective toward an objective idealism" 
[italics mine] (141). He is correct. I believe that Emerson did not disown his idealism 
in his later years, or even his subjective idealism. But I do not have room here to 
elaborate on what Whicher means, and so leave that for a future essay. 

10 Joel Porte. "Nature as Symbol: Emerson's Noble Doubt," New England Quarterly 37 
(December 1964): 462. 

1 1 The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Robert E. Spiller and Alfred R. 
Ferguson, 5 vols, to date (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1971), 1:36. Hereafter 
designated in the text as CW. 

12 G. L. Warnock. Berkeley (Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame Univ. Press, 1953), 89. 

13 David Robinson believes that Emerson recognized that "the experience of mystical 
timelessness could not be summoned at will . . . which implied that the experience was 
the product of a will separate from his own, and therefore beyond his control," and 
concludes that Emerson's position marks a loss of "self-reliance" and shows "a clear 
affinity with the [Calvinistic] doctrines of elect but irresistible grace" ("The Legacy of 
Channing: Culture as a Religious Category in New England Thought," Harvard 
Theological Review 74 [1981]: 237, 238). 

It is true that Emerson believed that an individual can only prepare himself 
psychologically, read nature, and wait passively for revelatory voices (as artists and 
other creative persons prepare themselves for, and listen to, the voices of their 
unconscious). But to say that these voices for Emerson were "the product of a will 
separate from his own" is misleading. To say this is to suggest, among other things, 
that the mature Emerson held that deity is "a person" distinct and separate from man, 
the individual. But. except in his sermons from 1826 to 1831, there is little evidence 
for that. These revelatory voices for him were intuitive voices of his greater self, the 

David Lyttle 109 

individual/Universal, voices that ultimately confirmed for him free will and self- 
reliance. In his double consciousness, he wrote, on the one hand, that "this self- 
reliance which belongs to every healthy human being, is proof . . . that not he, but the 
soul of the world, is in him; &, in proportion as it penetrates his miserable crust of 
particularity, saith, Here am I, here is the whole" (JMN, 14: 69; 1856). On the other 
hand, he said in "The Transcendentalist": "The height, the deity of man is to be self- 
sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force" (CW, 1:203-04). 

14 Ellen Tucker Emerson, The Life ofLidian Jackson Emerson, ed. Delores Bird Carpen- 
ter (Boston: Twayne, 1980), 79. See David Robinson, Apostle of Culture (Philadel- 
phia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 123-37 for an important discussion about 
Emerson on God's "personality" in his "Divinity School Address"; and see Wesley T. 
Mott, "The Strains of Eloquence": Emerson and His Sermons (University Park, 
Penn.: The Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1989), chapter three, for a fine analysis of 
Emerson's progressive thought that culminated in his central doctrine of the "God 

15 Eleanor M. Tilton, "Emerson's Lecture Schedule — 1837-1838 — Revised," Harvard 
Library Bulletin 20 (October 1973): 390. 

16 Freedom and Fate, 20-21, 23. Andrews Norton, Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature 
at Harvard Divinity School and former teacher of Emerson, attacked Emerson for his 
insistence upon absolute intuitive certainty in religious matters. Norton wrote, in his 
famous "A Discourse on the Latest Form of Infidelity" (1839): "To the demand for 
certainty, let it come from whom it may, I answer, that I know of no absolute certainty, 
beyond the limit of momentary consciousness, a certainty that vanishes the instant it 
exists, and is lost in the region of metaphysical doubt. . . . There can be no intuition, no 
direct perception, ... no metaphysical certainty. . . . There is, then, no mode of 
establishing religious belief, but by the exercise of reason, by investigation, by 
forming a probable judgment upon facts" (quoted in Perry Miller, The Transcenden- 
talists [Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1950], 211-12). Irreconcilable differences 
between Emerson and the orthodox Unitarians were about what reality is and how one 
knows reality. 

17 W. R. Inge, Christian Mysticism (New York: Meridian, 1956), 29. 

18 For a discussion of this point, see Chapter Five, "Divine Personality," in my book 
Studies in Religion in Early American Literature (New York: Univ. Press of America, 
1983), 94-124. 

19 The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Edward Waldo Emerson, 12 vols. 
(Centenary Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903-1904), 8:41. 

20 I know of no significant reference by Emerson to photography or to a machine of 
projection. But I have found the theater metaphor useful in teaching Emerson, for it 
gives clarity to his concepts which are often vague, apparently without system, and 
difficult for the contemporary Western mind to grasp. 

21 It would not be quite right to say that, for Emerson, each individual views the picture 
of nature from a slightly different angle, since this implies one objective picture at 
which all individuals are looking. But his cosmos is more "subjective" and monadic 
than this in that there are as many pictures of nature as there are individuals: "There is 
properly no History, only Biography" (CW, 2:6). 

22 Letters, 3:9. 

23 Emerson's use of the term "degrade" in this passage is striking and curious. G. L. 
Warnock quotes Kant who said that Berkeley "degraded bodies to mere illusion" 

110 The Concord Sa unterer 

(Berkeley, 91). Perhaps Kant's judgment had been brought to Emerson's attention, 
and Emerson used the term "degrade" not to "put down" others but to defy Kantians 
and others who thought that ranking persons as phenomena was absurd. 

24 Alcott' s genuine entertainment of such an idea as "Nature proceeding from himself 
(JMN, 5:178) helps explain Emerson's puzzling admiration of him. After his brother 
Charles died in the spring of 1 836, Emerson literally knew no one, except Alcott, who 
seriously shared with him the adventure of what some people might call far-out 
philosophic ideas. Alcott must have replaced Charles, at least in part, in Emerson's 
imaginative life. 

25 Letters, 2:32. 


88 .S 


"S 3 

ad c 

- — 

| 2 




Izvetve Ungathered (Poems By 
franktin <B. Sanborn (1831-191 7) 

Ronald A. Bosco 

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn is remembered today as an advocate for 
Abolitionism and for John Brown and as one of the "secret six" planners of the 
unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, as a promoter of education and prison reform, 
and, especially, as the prolific memorialist of Transcendentalism and the 
movement's leading figures: Emerson, Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott. While there 
appears to be a positive consensus about his efforts in the first two instances, most 
scholars moderate praise for Sanborn's massive historical and biographical treat- 
ments of Transcendentalism with criticism over his tendency to rewrite history 
and the primary texts of his subjects. With the exception of his persistent 
champion Kenneth Walter Cameron, most consider Sanborn's revisionism a 
reflection of either his own taste (illustrated by his wholesale liberties with, for 
instance, Thoreau' s prose) or his exaggerated sense of himself as central to the 
movement's success (suggested by his seeming to claim greater intimacy or 
acceptance with its leading figures than he in fact enjoyed). Until Sanborn's life 
and career are subjected to thorough critical assessment, mixed praise will likely 
continue as the prevailing judgment on his place in New England literary history. 1 

The present piece steps outside the usual discussion of Sanborn's life to 
add twelve previously unpublished poems to his collected verse, the least noticed 
portion of his writing. All the poems that follow were deposited in the Houghton 
Library of Harvard University by the Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Associa- 
tion during successive additions of family papers to the Houghton collection; they 
are published here with the permission of the Association and of the Houghton 
Library. 2 The manuscripts and acquisition records provide no clues as to how the 
poems came into Emerson family hands, although in the details that follow two 
possibilities emerge. Sanborn may have given the poems to Edith Emerson 
Forbes, Emerson's youngest child and Sanborn's subject in several known poems 
from the late 1850s and early 1860s. Sanborn taught Edith at a private school in 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

114 The Concord Sauxterer 

Concord in the 1850s, and he proposed marriage to her in 1861, which she, with 
her father's approval, rejected. It is also possible that Sanborn gave the poems to 
Emerson for critical evaluation (a familiar role for Emerson who also served as 
critic and editor for the poems of Alcott and Jones Very, for instance) or as 
contributions toward Emerson's anthology Parnassus (1874). a volume of poems 
and poetic excerpts on which Edith served as her father's editorial assistant. 

Throughout his varied career as schoolmaster, social scientist, journalist, 
and literary editor and historian. Sanborn, like many of his major and minor 
associates, was also an ambitious poet. He wrote nearly five hundred known 
poems, which have been compiled in two volumes: the first by John Michael 
Moran, Jr. in 1964. the second by Cameron in 1981. 3 While some of the sources 
for poems collected in these volumes include unpublished correspondence and 
Sanborn's papers at the American Antiquarian Society, Concord Free Public 
Library, and Clifton Waller Barrett Library at the University of Virginia, most of 
Sanborn's known poems were published in his time as broadsides and commemo- 
rative pamphlets and in the columns of The Commonwealth. The Granite Monthly. 
The Liberator. The Harvard Magazine, and other newspapers and periodicals. 
Neither editor provides a critical appraisal of the quality or range of Sanborn's 
poems; however, in his collection Moran arranges poems in categories that aptly 
indicate Sanborn's poetic preoccupations, while in one prefatory aside Cameron 
makes a startling remark that may invite future discussion on the quality of 
Sanborn's poetry. 

Moran collects Sanborn's poems under seven topical headings. First and 
foremost are poems to and about Ariana ("Anna") Smith Walker, a frail young 
woman from his native New Hampshire whom Sanborn met in 1850, courted over 
the next four years while he was a student at Exeter and Harvard, married eight 
days before her death from consumption on 31 August 1854, and never forgot. 4 
Next are nature poems, poems addressed to Edith Emerson, and poems on Sanborn's 
cat. "Bridget Muffin/' By far the largest category, "occasional verses" include 
memorial poems on Abraham Lincoln. John Brown. Henry Thoreau. and Theodore 
Parker, odes for ceremonial events such as the dedication of Concord's Sleepy 
Hollow Cemetery in 1857 and the Soldiers' Monument in 1867. poems on friends' 
and relatives' birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries, and poems relating to his 
college experience, including his rhymed minutes of the Hasty Pudding Club 
composed when he served as Secretary in 1 854. The remaining two categories of 
poems encompass translations from the classics set to verse and dramatic poems 
or, as Sanborn called them, "modern masques." 

Sanborn wrote the twelve poems gathered here during the 1850s. Be- 
cause the manuscripts of most are reasonably fair copies, he undoubtedly rewrote 
the poems in their present state sometime after composing them, which may also 
call into question his dating of some of them. Of the twelve poems, three — 
"Absence" and "On a Friend's Birthday" (both composed in 1851) and "The 

Ronald A. Bosco 115 

Flowers" (1853) — were written for Ariana and are representative of the category. 
"Absence 1 is the first of two poems Sanborn composed under the same title. 
While the poem here describes his intense passion for his newfound love and 
sorrow at their separation while he is away at Exeter, in the later "Absence," 
composed shortly after Ariana' s death, Sanborn is equally passionate on the 
subject of his loss. 5 

In addition to Sanborn's 1851 "Absence" and his two other poems 
explicitly for Ariana, four other poems gathered here invite association with her. 
While the untitled poem that opens "In the pastures happy girls" (1854) vaguely 
fits Moran's nature category, Ariana, whose disease was in remission early in 
1854, actually may have served as its inspiration. Similarly, the three poems 
collected under the title "Pictures" all written either immediately before or during 
Sanborn's last year at Harvard (1854-1855), complete a cycle of four landscape 
poems that may well have its origin in Sanborn's sense of impending or realized 
loss of Ariana. Cameron prints "Cambridge Bridge," the first poem of the cycle, 
from a leaf in the Barrett collection which also contains "Elegy" one of Sanborn's 
many poems on Ariana' s death. Like the three "Pictures" printed here, and 
especially "//. The Deserted House" with its images of "dusty woe" and "chilly 
gloom," "Cambridge Bridge" creates a sense of passing that may, as Cameron 
implies, refer only to the close of Sanborn's Harvard years, but may just as easily 
refer to his fear of life without Ariana: 

I. Cambridge Bridge 

When rosy twilight filled the west 
Upon the bridge I stood, — 
Behind me lay the hills at rest 
Below me gleamed the flood. 

Up from the sea beyond the town 
Rose the full moon, and far 
Down the steep sky and farther down 
Slid the sweet evening star. 

The waters plashed against the piers 
And faintly lashed the shore, — 
A sound as if of dropping tears 
Rose sadly ever more. 

Yet in the light the small waves leapt 
And seemed alive with glee, — 
The city bathed in silver slept, 
And silver shone the sea. 6 

116 The Concord Saunterer 

"February'" (1856) is the sole poem gathered here that clearly fits the 
nature category. The remainder of the poems are all occasional verses. Sanborn 
composed "Ode' ( 1 853?) and "Ulysses and We" ( 1 853) as celebrations of his time 
at Harvard. As his introduction and note to the poem indicate, he wrote "Ulysses 
and We" when he became second editor of the magazine of the Institute of 1770, a 
literary, social, and debating club at Harvard; "Ode" evidently written to com- 
memorate the graduation of persons his senior, may also have been written for 
members of the Institute of 1770 or, perhaps, for graduating members of the Hasty 
Pudding Club. 7 "Birthday Poem" ( 1 853) was written for Louisa Augusta Leavitt, 
Sanborn's cousin; while the poem ends with celebratory verses on Ariana, "the 
future Mrs. Sanborn / On my arm," in an ironic biographical twist, after he was 
refused by Edith Emerson, Sanborn married Louisa in 1862. Finally, although the 
subject of "Birthday Verses" (1856) is unidentified, images of the subject's 
passage into young womanhood and the poet's desire that she not "tremble at the 
loving voice that calls" strongly suggest Sanborn felt more than fondness for this 
person. Since only Ariana and Edith elicited such feeling in him (there are no 
comparable verses for Louisa), and since, to judge from the date Sanborn gave the 
poem, Ariana had been dead for two years, Sanborn probably wrote the poem for 
Edith. However, because Edith had turned only 15 in 1856, 1 suspect the poem is 
later than Sanborn's date suggests — probably 1859 or 1860. Possibly Sanborn 
merely erred in copying the date, but more likely he intentionally misdated the 
poem to obscure its subject for propriety's sake. 

In his Preface to Ungathered Poems and Transcendental Papers, Cameron 
states that Sanborn's poems will "delight many and surprise a few." Among the 
surprises Cameron himself has to offer is the claim that in poems such as this, 
which is untitled and undated, Sanborn anticipates Emily Dickinson: 

There are such shadows in the soul, — 
Such busy serpents, swift and smooth, 
Such pangs that Time can never soothe 
Such weary lagging toward the goal. 

Such dreaded words from loving lips, 
Such dreary sinking of the heart, 
Such clouds that day and sunshine part, 
And baffling all, Death's sad collapse. 

Oh never trust the painted wings 
Of lying Hope! She does but bear 
The soul an hour's relief from care, 
To pay it with a life of stings. 

Ronald A. Bosco 117 

Flit, swallows, through the gleaming sky! 
Fly loving birds, from tree to tree! 
For you Earth blooms — she blooms for me 
As flowers in mourning churchyards lie. 

While in the opening stanza of this poem and in succeeding images of the heart's 
"dreary sinking," "Death' s sad collapse," "a life of stings," and "mourning church- 
yards" one easily senses a Dickinsonian aesthetic at work, such moments are, to 
this reader at least, rare across Sanborn's collected verse. Nevertheless, lending a 
certain authority to Cameron's claim is the confidence that Emerson had in 
Sanborn's poetic gift. He included Sanborn's "Anathemata" (two sonnets written 
to Edith in the early 1860s which Emerson titles and prints as one poem), "River 
Song," and "Ode Written for the Consecration of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery" in 
Parnassus. There, along with pieces by Ellery Channing, Frederic Henry Hedge, 
Helen Hunt, Lucy Larcom, Caroline Sturgis Tappan, and Byron Forceythe Willson, 
Sanborn's poems were introduced by Emerson as coming from new hands that 
"have yet to earn their laurels." 9 Yet, suggestive as Cameron's claim is, a 
judgment on its validity, as well as on Emerson's confidence in Sanborn's poetry, 
awaits the critical scrutiny to which all of Sanborn's career must be subjected, 
including the extent to which he realized his ambition to be a serious poet. 

The twelve poems that follow are printed in clear text that has been 
drawn from manuscript copy-text. Notes to the poems describe manuscript 
sources and, using standard editorial symbols, show all authorial insertions and 
deletions as they occur in the originals; notes also indicate any editorial emenda- 
tion of the text. Lacking in the originals, page numbers have been editorially 
supplied in notes. 


Ah! thou art in the best! 

Beyond the changing splendor of the sky, 

Beyond the mountains high 

My dove has found a nest. 
The sun shines later for thee than for me, 

And for the sounding sea 
Thou hast the rushing of the mountain winds, 
The merry dashing of the mountain streams; 

Another forest line thy vision binds, 
But the same sky above thee spreads and gleams. 

118 The Concord Saunterer 

Be this the symbol of my boundless love, 
Whate'er thy life may be, lo, this is mine, 
To overarch thee with a boundless love, 
As the sweet skies stretch out their wings above 
The season-changing land, the tossing brine. 

Now must the cricket's cheer, 

Sing loud but never near, 

Ringing across brown fields with mellow tone, 

Drive from my haunted ear 

This lingering moan, 

"Alone — alone!" 
For thy dear monotone, 

Thou black-stoled hedge priest, chanting hymns in choir, 
Brings back the memory of those days of fire, 
Tempered by misty skies, and the pure light 
That made a Sabbath of the ambrosial night, 
And let down Heaven in a silver chain, 
I thank thee cricket, for thy homely strain. 

Yes — thou art far away, — 
And many a hill, made all of amethyst, 
When the descending day God kist 
Its glowing summit with his latest ray, 
And many a pinewood's dusky green, 
And many a maple's crimson sheen, 
And many an oak's heroic breast, 
And many an elm tree with its swinging nest, 
Wall up the way 
My eyes would take to thee; — 
And gliding downward to the mother sea, 
Beneath a bail of misty white 
With ghostly glimmer in the still moonlight, 
Full many a devious river flows between. 

Yet one bold messenger that never heeds 

Mountains or fordless floods 

Or gloomy depth of woods, 

Down from thy hills on swiftest pinion speeds. 

The dancing western wind, 

Bowing the oak that roars behind, 

Ronald A. Bosco 119 

And shaking out the maple's scarlet banner. 
Comes on in merry manner. 

"Aha!" cries he. 
If thou could' st be like me 

A wanderer fast and free ! 
I know thee well, poor lover. 
Full well I know the maid. — 
She sat beside her window. 
And a moment there I staid. — 

Could I help it? and I played 
Amid her glossy hair. 
And I kissed, and I kissed her forehead so fair. 

And her little mouth I kist. — 

Ah. little she wist 
I should bear that kiss to thee! 
Turn thy face and receive it. 
On thy lips here I give it. 
"Is it sweet? I am gone." cries he. 

Fare thee well, sweet carrier! 
For this I love thee more 
Than any wind whose wings may stir 
The flaunting trees, as wildly whirr 
Along the naked shore. 
Now may there be no barrier 
'Twixt me and her. 


On a Friend's Birthday. 

Dear Friend! to thee, whose long prized worth. 
Grows with each passing day more bright. 
Now while the loving arms of Night 
Are folded round the sleeping earth. 
(Night of the day that gave thee birth.) 
My thoughts return with calm delight. 

When woods were green and gay with song. 
And roses hung in drooping bloom. 
And breezes faint with rich perfume 

120 The Concord Saunterer 

O'er blossomed clover stole along, 
Through all the day so bright and long, 
And thro' the shortened hours of gloom; 

In such fair season wert thou born; 
And something of the season's grace 
Grew early in thy thoughtful face. 
And deep into thy spirit worn; 
Its tranquil Eve, its glowing morn, 
Its still serenity of days. 

And from thy life an influence flows, 
Apart from look and deed and word, — 
The unmarked singing of a bird. 
The ear heeds not such dulcet close, 
Yet bringing peace where'er it goes, 
It glides into the soul unheard. 

Turn not away displeased, nor deem 
My words are feigned or foolish praise; 
For ah! my tongue but weakly says 
Half that I feel and think and dream. 
My soul is like a waveless stream. 
Frail mirror, that a motion frays! 

And what of good or pure or fair 
The tempest from its surface drives, 
Beneath the billows still survives, 
Again in stillness mirrored there. 
Weak virtue! that so ill can bear, 
And ever cold and lonely lives. 

With ancient faith renewed again 
Shall we not pledge in trust sincere 
A friendship that each mutual tear. 
And shared delight and lightened pain 
Shall bind in ever stronger chain 
From slow succeeding year to year? 


Ronald A. Bosco 727 

Ode 12 

Let gentlest winds of summer breathe 
With all their odors sweet 
And shake the green festoons that wreathe 
The hall in which we meet; 

Gay wreaths whose beauty well bespeaks 
The lovely hands that wrought, 
And flowers no brighter than the cheeks 
And lips of those that brought. 

With all the grace that decks the year 
Would we our rites adorn, 
And let the rose of meeting here 
Conceal the parting thorn. 

For as the never waiting tide 

Unclasps the friendly hands 
Outstretching o'er the vessel's side 
That sails to other lands, 

So us the Sea of Time divides, 

And parts us each from each, 
While still the impatient vessel glides 
Far from the glittering beach, 

But e'er the straining sails are set, 

Or yet the anchor weighed, 
Here on the pleasant shore we've met, 
Here must Farewell be said. 

"Farewell, O brothers that depart," 

We that remain will say: 
"Keep green the memory, warm the heart, 
However far away!" 

"And Fare ye well that stay behind," 

We that depart will say; 
"Fond memories haunt the generous heart, 
However far away." 

122 The Coxcord Sal merer 

Then keep the chain forever bright. 
That links us each to all: 
Our branch shall gleam with golden light 
Though stately forests fall. 

Beneath its shade we'll hope to meet. 
When other suns shall shine. 
And sing our song and ne'er forget 
The days of "Auld Lang Syne." 


Birthday Poem 

Is it possible. Miss Leavitt. 
Twenty years have slipped away. 
Since the sun of hot midsummer 
Shone upon your first birthday? 

I remember, though it scarceh 
Seems like twice twelve months ago. 
When you wore a long sleeved tyer. 
And were learning how to sew. 

In those days you read sweet stories 
Out of highly colored books. 
Of fair queens and shepherdesses 
With their coronets and crooks. 

On her throne the lovely princess 
Sat and reigned as princess should. 
While the shepherd maiden guided 
Sheep to pasture through the wood. 

Little did you think. I fancy, 
That your twentieth year would find 
In your own most proper person 
Queen and shepherdess combined. 

On your throne, (except vacations.) 
All the day your state you keep. 
While you yet with care and shouting 
Tend and drive your Irish sheep. 

Ronald A. Bosco 123 

Well, I think no shepherd maiden 
Found more pleasure in her flock, 
Though in green Arcadian meadows 
She sat piping on a rock. 

And the princesses, God save them! 
With their pretty crowns and pearls, 
Get as little joy of living 
As a washerwoman's girls. 

So upon the whole, dear cousin, 
You are happy, I believe, 
And may every future birthday 
Bring as little cause to grieve. 

When you wear a cap and glasses, 
And sit knitting by the door, 
While your children's noisy children 
Tumble round upon the floor; 

With the future Mrs. Sanborn 
On my arm, with careful feet, 
On some pleasant July morning 
You will see me in the street. 

Coming up to greet your birthday 
With a wish as kind and true 
As today I write these verses 
Dearest cousin, unto you. 

Friday, July 15, 1853 

Ulysses and We. 

Written for the Institute of 1 770 at the close of my Sophomore year. 

Fate, who will always have her way, like a true woman, has decreed that 
your third editor shall not appear before you again in his official capacity. But we 
cannot resist the inclination which we feel, to come forward a little out of our 

124 The Coscord Sa l \terer 

to say a parting word to our brothers of the Institute. We should do 
injustice to our feelings, did we not publicly express the deep sense of obligation 
which the cordial support of the Society has given us. We have endeavored to 
fulfil the duties of the place to which your favor and not our merit has called us. 
and we have every reason to thank the Society for its friendly reception of what 
we have presented. And it gives us a touch of sadness to reflect that we shall no 
more be the medium through which sharp critiques, side splitting chronicles and 
presidential poetry are to be offered for your consideration. 

Not to detain you longer, we will close with certain versiculi. inspired by 
Prof. Gray"s coffee, for the excellence of which, and for all the pleasures of a 
delightful evening, may he live forever, and never become a widower. 

When, tost by all the blasts of every wind. 

Ulysses wandered o'er 
The unpropitious sea. forbid to find 
The sheltering harbors of his rocky shore. 

Fate threw him on a green and flowery isle. 

Fair navelled in the waves 
That for his perished comrades mourned the while, 
.And lashed the surge above their wandering graves. 

There sat the birds and sung the summer da\ . 

From the first dawning flame. 
Till dropped the crimson sun. and evening gray, 
Quenching the western lustre softly came. 

But fairer than gray evening planet-crowned. 

Brighter than day's glad sheen. 
And richer voiced than bird of sweetest sound. 
Calypso dwelt therein, the island's queen. 

Pleased with the welcome of the nymph divine 

Ulysses lingered here. 
While the gay months their ceaseless chorus time 
.And bring too swiftly the revolving year. 

Then must he launch upon the sea again. 

And face the seaman's toil. 
Forsake the weeping goddess, and in vain 
Cast backward dances toward the friendlv soil. 

Ronald A. Bosco 125 

So like the tired Ulysses did we find 

Calypso's island here; 
And here have ever met a welcome kind, 
Throughout the circle of the closing year. 

And sadly shall we go to dwell no more 

Within the pleasant isle: 
Ah, as our bark glides farther from the shore, 
The lessening woods behind still brighter smile. 

And the Calypso that we sigh to leave, 

As from the land we part 
Throws a gold net of memories that weave 
Round the warm pulses of the grateful heart. 

July 1853 



In the pastures happy girls, 
Catching sunlight in their curls, 
Ramble forth by two's and three's, 
Kissed by many a soaring breeze, 
Searching all the meadows through 
For the violet's modest blue, 
Slender, pale anemones 
Blooming 'mid the scattered trees 
And the Mayflowers where they hide 
On the forest's sunny side. 

The Flowers 

Well might my heart in lovely flowers 
Its tender story tell, 

Brought daily to thee from the dewy dell 
Or open meadow, or fresh garden bowers. 

Not only these, the scentless growth 
Of some wood-shaded rill, 


126 The Coscord Salwterer 

But such as in the early summer fill 

With fragrance the soft breezes of the earth. 

Or in the merry month of May. 

The violet's drooping face 

Upon thy gentle bosom should" st thou place. 

And wear it for its sweetness all the day. 

With roses would I crown thy hair. 
And in thy little hand 
Put whitest lilies that do grow on land. 
And dripping lotus blossoms, wet and fair. 

Yet all that blooms in wood or field. 

From Spring till Spring again. 

Are but faint pictures imaging in vain 

The beauty that Love's happy moments yield. 



II. The Deserted House 

"The shadows of the four great elms" 

said he. 
"Drop on the roof and walls. — 
The gay gold robin flies from tree to tree 

And sings and-calls. 

"The twittering swallows build their mason work 
Beneath the barn's long eaves. 
About the beehives still the king birds lurk 
And clang amid the leaves. 

"The bees still hum about the mossy hives 

The unused well beside. — 
Within the garden still the rose-tree thrives 

And blooms in summer pride. 

"But ah. the house — within the house" 
said he 

Ronald A. Bosco 127 

"Tis ever dark and still, — 

No sound of household work — of childish glee 

Is echoed from the hill. 

"The tall old clock that in its corner stood 

A hundred years ago, 

Nor ceased its beat through evil and through good. 

Is dumb in dusty woe. 

"The mirrors hang as ever on the wall 
In each resounding room, 
And catch the straying sunbeams as they fall 
Across the chilly gloom." 



III. The April Sunset. 

The day flowed on — the haughty sun 
Whose course so brilliantly begun, 
Grown weary with his long ascent. 
His golden quiver almost spent 
Heard the dark footsteps of the night 
And glided down the western height. 

But 'ere he wholly passed from view 

About his fading form he drew 

His cloudy mantle woven wide 

And crimson fringed on either side 

As if he sought his face to hide, — 

And as the fleeing Parthian' s bow 

Shot sudden arrows at his foe, 

So he, pursued, behind him cast 

His level arrows and his last 

Above him, hurrying to his hold, 

The land-exulting peon of the thunder rolled. 


128 The Concord Saunterer 

IV. noon 

Where the pine tree's waving hair. 
Swaying in the purple air. 
Mingles in its murmurs sweet 
With the brook's noise at its feet. 
On a mossy pillow laid 
Half in sunshine, half in shade. 
Will I notice what I may 
In this glowing April da> . 

On my ears as here I lie 

Breaks the farmer's cheerful cry. — 

O'er the hillside, moving slow 

the oxen to and fro. 
Drawing through the greensward fair 
Step by step the shriving share. 
Side by side in waving 1.: 
Furrow after furrow shir. 
Waiting for the seed to fall 
And the summer sun to call. 
And the wind of June to blow 
'Ere the ample harvest grow . 


With lovely flush the winter sunset tills 
The sky that dips between the western hills. 
And higher up the pure young moon afloat. 
Through rose and purple steers her silver boat. — 
And still and sacred a dawning light. 

Stars bloom along the meadows of the night. 

Oh wondrous Beauty! how thou put'st to shame 
This trivial life of ours with thy clear flame. 
How poor we look when Nature's torches shine! 
Is aught in us to match this grace divine? 
Yes, Love fresh kindled at the eternal sun. 
And glowing in two hearts that beat as one. 


Ronald A. Bosco 129 

Birthday Verses. 

As one who journeys through a land unknown, 
Turns often on some hilltops whence to see 
How much before him lies — how far he's gone. 
So is it on this day, dear Friend with thee. 

Thou from the East upon thy way did'st start, 
In morning freshness, under childhood's sky, — 
But now thou journeyest with a woman's heart, 
And over thee Life's sun has risen high. 

Fades from the East the morning's rosy splendor, 
And yields to day's uncolored, steady light, — 
Nor yet can'st thou behold the lines so tender, 
That in the West foretell the coming night. 

"Oh night most welcome if a welcome day, 
Gladly I pass within thy starry walls!" 
So when the twilight deepens mayst thou say. — 
Nor tremble at the loving voice that calls. 



All significant treatments of Transcendentalism include comment on Sanborn. For a 
survey of scholarship, including Cameron's many compilations of Sanborn's writings, 
see Robert E. Burkholder. "Franklin Benjamin Sanborn." in The Transcendentalists: 
A Review of Research and Criticism, ed. Joel Myerson (New York: Modern Language 
Association, 1984), 253-59; Burkholder's entry in Biographical Dictionary- of Tran- 
scendentalism, ed. Wesley T. Mott (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press. 
1996), 229-31, provides a recent biographical overview. Benjamin Blakely Hickock's 
"The Political and Literary Careers of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn" (Ph.D. Diss.. 
Michigan State University, 1953) is the only complete biography. Sanborn's three 
books on Thoreau, Henry D. Thoreau (1882), The Personality ofThoreau (1901), and 
The Life of Henry D. Thoreau (1917), along with his A. Bronson Alcott: His Life and 
Philosophy (1893; written with W. T. Harris), Ralph Waldo Emerson ( 1901 ). and The 
Personality of Emerson (1903). show ample evidence of his inaccurate transcription 
of his subjects' texts and exaggerated sense of his centrality to Transcendentalism. 
Emerson fully understood Sanborn's liabilities: In 1872 Emerson expressed "dread" 
to his daughter Ellen that Sanborn should ever have access to his papers after his death. 

130 The Coscord Saunterer 

and on his deathbed in 1882. he issued Sanborn a significant rebuff by having him 
dismissed from the room: see The Letters of Ellen Tucker Emerson, ed. Edith E. W. 
Gregg. 2 vols. (Kent. Ohio: Kent State University Pre». 1QS2 >, 1:690. 2:676. 

2 In the Houghton Library, see bMS Am 1280.235 522 

3 Collected Poems of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn of Transcendental Concord, ed. John 
Michael Moran. Jr. (Hartford. Conn.: Transcendental Books. 1964): Ungathered 
Poems and Transcendental Papers by Eranklin Benjamin Sanbom. ed. Kenneth 
Walter Cameron (Hartford. Conn.: Transcendental Books. 1981). 

4 For details, see Hickock. "The Political and Literary Careers of Franklin Benjamin 
Sanbom." 31-66. Hickock reports that fifty-one years after Anana's death. Sanborn 
continued to write about her and recopy passages from her letters and journals in his 
papers 1 6 5 

5 For the later "Absence." see I' n gathered Poems and Transcendental Papers. 212. 
Sanbom dates the second poem 1853. >et Cameron's gue>s that the poem was likely 
written after Ariana"s death in 1854 seems more than justified on the basis of internal 
evidence alone. I suspect that Sanbom titled the poem "Absence" with the intention to 
have it serve as a post-Ariana companion to the earlier poem printed below. 

6 Ungathered Poems and Transcendental Papers. 21 1. 

According to records of the Institute of 1770 in the Harvard University Archives. 
Sanbom was proposed for membership on 10 September and 8 October 1852: he was 
finally elected to membership and as second editor of the club's literary magazine on 
4 March 1853. The club's minutes for 8 July 1S53 note in reference to "Ulysses and 
We." "Mr. Sanbom read a voluntary valedictory." No comparable evidence for "Ode" 
has been found in the records of the Institute of 1770 or the Hasty Pudding Club. 

8 Ungathered Poems and Transcendental Papers, [i], 255. 

9 Parnassus, ed. Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston and New York: Houghton. Mifflin. 
1874). x. Sanborn's poems appear on 59. 442. and 462. respectively. 

10 MS: two sheets of unlined white paper folded to make four pages each: pages. 
unnumbered, measure 20.2 x 12.4 cm.: pages 2. 4. and 6 are blank. Line 15: season- 
changing] season changing 23: black-stoled . . . choir.] black staled . . . choir<:>. 24: 
those days] those <skies> days 27: a silver] a <si> silver 41: still] <ai>still 60: kissed, 
and I kissed] kissed/and I kissed 66: "Is it] Is it 73: 'Twixt] Twixt 

1 1 MS: one sheet of unlined white paper folded to make four pages: pages, unnumbered, 
measure 20.2 x 12.4 cm.: page 2 is blank. Line 22: dulcet] dulc<i>et 41: bind] <link> 

12 MS: one sheet of unlined white paper folded to make four pages: pages, unnumbered, 
measure 18.9 x 1 1.5 cm.: "Ode." undated, occurs on pages 1-2. "Birthday Poem" on 
pages 3-4. 

"Ode": line 27: "Keep] Keep 

"Birthday Poem": lines 41-42: Mrs. Sanbom / On] Mrs Sanbom <on> / On 

13 MS: one sheet of unlined white paper folded to make four pages: pages, unnumbered, 
measure 25.1 x 19.2 cm.: introductory remarks occur on page 1. "Ulysses and We" on 
pages 2-3: page 4 is blank. 

Written . . . Sophomore year.] Sanborn's note below date 
Introductory remarks: more be the medium . . . critiques, side . . . presidential 
poetry are to be offered] more be the <organ> medium . . . critiques. <m>side . . . 

Ronald A. Bosco 131 

presidential poetry <is>are to be <presented> offered 

"Ulysses and We.": line 1: tost by all the blasts of] tost by <every wave and> all 
the blasts of 10: first dawning] first <eastern> dawning 19: chorus time] chorus 
<home>time 20: revolving] r<a>evolving 28: circle of the] circle of <ot>the 

14 MS: one sheet of unlined white paper folded to make four pages; pages, unnumbered, 
measure 20.2 x 12.5 cm.; untitled poem occurs on page 1, "The Flowers — ," which 
follows, on pages 1 and 3; pages 2 and 4 are blank. 

[Untitled]: line 3: two's and three's] twos and threes 6: violet's] violets 8: 'mid] 

"The Flowers — ": line 4: Or open meadow, or fresh] <And> Or open meadow, 
<of>or fresh 6: wood-shaded] woodshaded 11: should' st] shouldst 

15 MS: one sheet of unlined white paper folded to make four pages; pages, unnumbered, 
measure 20.2 x 12.5 cm.; the poem occurs on pages 1 and 3; pages 2 and 4 are blank. 
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John Muir and c Tfioreau s Cape Cod 

J. Parker Huber 

John Muir's prodigious travels included five trips to New England. In 
1 898 he made a short visit to Cape Cod. His real appreciation of this sandy 
peninsula where the Pilgrims first landed in 1620, however, came not from this 
brief encounter, but from his two close readings of Thoreau's Cape Cod, neither of 
which I can date. That he read Cape Cod before coming to the place itself is 
plausible but as yet unsubstantiated. Since he does not refer to the book while on 
his trip, probably he did not carry it with him. Nor does he mention it in his 
correspondence of this year, though seldom are his many readings referred to this 
way. This essay examines Muir's readings of Thoreau's Cape Cod and then his 
own Cape Cod sojourn. 

In 1 849, the same year that John Muir came to America from Scotland 
and settled on Fountain Lake Farm in Wisconsin, Henry Thoreau made his first of 
five trips to Cape Cod. Thoreau's destination four times was the lower Cape, the 
Great Beach, that twenty-seven mile stretch of sand from Provincetown in the 
north to Orleans in the south, between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay, 
much of which is fortunately now our National Seashore. He reached this region 
from Concord in October 1849 via Boston by train to Sandwich and from there by 
stagecoach to Orleans; in June 1850 and again in July 1855 by steamer from 
Boston to Provincetown; and in June 1857 from Manomet on foot to Scusset and 
by cars to Sandwich and then on foot diagonally across the Cape to Friends 
Village, then northward to Orleans, Wellfleet, Highland Light, and Provincetown, 
from where he steamed to Boston. His winter excursion of December 1854 took 
him only to mid-Cape by train via New Bedford to Hyannis, and from there by 
ferry to Nantucket Island, where he lectured. 1 Thoreau never entered the village 
of Woods Hole, where John Muir would spend a part of two days in September 
1898, his only visit to Cape Cod. Thoreau did observe Woods Hole from aboard 
the New Bedford steamer Eagle's Wing on 27 June 1856. That summer day 
Thoreau also saw all the Elizabeth Islands, and for two-and-a-half hours delighted 
in walking amid beech, oaks, and tupelo on the largest of these, Naushon. 2 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

1 34 The Co\cord Sauxterer 

Thoreau presented his impressions of Cape Cod to the world. He gave 
several lectures in 1850 and 1851. 3 Then, the summer 1855 issues of Putnam's 
Monthly carried what would become four chapters in his book. At last, ten years 
later and three years after Thoreau's death. Cape Cod. a book often chapters. \\ as 
published by Ticknor and Fields of Boston; it has been in print ever since. 4 
Modem editions feature introductions by Henry Beston (1951). Robert Finch 
(1984). and Paul Theroux (1987). 

Muir's immersion in Cape Cod was considerably more thorough than his 
exposure to Cape Cod itself. Here he received the essence of this place. First, he 
read volume four of the Riverside Edition of The Writings of Hem? David 
Thoreau. published by Houghton Mifflin from 1896 to 1898. 5 As usual, he 
marked passages in pencil in the margins: thirty-one vertical lines and one 
horizontal line. And. on a blank page at the back of the book, he created his own 
index: twenty-one items with twenty-five page references. His index is included 
as Appendix A. 

Muir considered Cape Cod worth) of further reflection. In 1 906 Houghton 
Mifflin published The Writings of Henry David Thoreau in twenty volumes. Muir 
acquired this set in 1908. 6 Volume four is titled Cape Cod and Miscellanies. This 
time his pencil was busier in the margins: sixty-six vertical lines and nine horizon- 
tal lines. As there are no marks in the first three chapters, he presumably ignored 
these. His markings begin with Thoreau' s powerful metaphors in the first two 
paragraphs of chapter four. "The Beach." Muir's own index, appearing at the back 
and identifying twenty items on thirty pages (the last reference is multiple pages), 
is presented in Appendix B. 

Let us now join Muir for his venture to Cape Cod. 


Muir arrive'd in Boston. Massachusetts, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. 17 
September 1898. completing a ten-day transcontinental trip from his home in 
Martinez. California. He had taken the northern route. From San Francisco to 
Portland. Oregon, to Spokane. Washington. East from there over the Rocky 
Mountains via the Great Northern Railway. Across the Great Plains where one 
engine was replaced by another and another and another. From St. Paul, Minne- 
sota, he caught a night train to Duluth in time for "'the last steamer of the season" 
through the Great Lakes — Superior. Huron. Erie — in three nights to Buffalo. New 
York, where he boarded the 7: 10 P.M. train for New England, emerging at daylight 
from the Hoosac Tunnel of northwestern Massachusetts, then south through 
Connecticut and Rhode Island to Providence, then north to Boston. 7 

New landscapes and people levitated him. His eyes absorbed natural 
wonders: "soldenrod all across the continent, sreat is eoldenrod." 8 This iirmee 

J. Parker Huber 135 

and others jotted ever so briefly in his journal and letters home, despite "the 
swaying jolting jumbling car." 9 On route he may have worked more on his essays 
on the animals and birds of Yosemite for the Atlantic Monthly. He tried to rest. 
Mostly, he dished out delectable anecdotes: "I have picked up quite a lot of 
companions to whom I preach daily, some of them preachers." 10 Until Buffalo, 
where he parted, "feeling very weak & sick" (JMJ, 16 September 1898). Dyspepsia 
was his diagnosis. 'The horrible food and eternal jolting and carbonic acid upset 
my stomach." 11 Dining car menus of the era show the influence of the region 
transited. Typically, dinners of soup, fish or roast beef, lettuce salad; a choice of 
vegetables — potatoes (mashed or boiled), French peas, string beans, succotash; 
for dessert — ice cream, cake, or pie. All for one dollar. 12 At the Spaulding Hotel 
in Duluth, Muir had had a beefsteak breakfast. 13 Aboard ship, boiled Lake 
Superior trout, corned beef and cabbage, pork and beans. 14 And always, his elixir 
of life, tea. 

From the Boston and Providence Railroad Depot on Park Square, Muir 
went directly to the Adams House at 553 Washington Street, four blocks east, 
presumably by livery. There he took a room for one dollar, bathed, changed 
clothes, and read a message from Charles Sprague Sargent, Director of the Arnold 
Arboretum. 15 Sargent himself was soon knocking on Muir's door. Sargent had 
invited Muir and William M. Canby of Wilmington, Delaware, to see the southern 
Appalachian forests. The previous summer the trio had traveled to British 
Columbia and Alaska to witness western trees. The summer before that, in 1896, 
Sargent and Muir had surveyed forests from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean 
for the National Forestry Commission, which Sargent headed. Sargent dedicated 
to Canby his just completed twelfth volume of The Silva of North America (1891- 
1902). 16 He had bestowed the same honor on Muir for the previous volume, 
which appeared earlier in 1898. "[I]t made my heart jump with joy as no other 
honor I have received ever did," Muir responded. 17 Sargent affirmed his gift in a 
letter: "For if there is any man who loves and knows trees, and knows how to write 
about them better than anybody else, you are the Fellow." 18 

Cape Cod 

Within hours of his arrival, a weary Muir was moving again. Their 
destination, in Sargent's words: "a spot where you will find a great many things to 
interest you." 19 Sargent, promising scenery and seclusion, had enticed Muir to 
"pass a few days on the end of Cape Cod where my family goes for a few weeks 
every summer." 20 Their means of transportation, though undisclosed, was assur- 
edly train. Their route on Saturday. 17 September 1 898, was from Boston south to 
New Bedford, then east to Buzzards Bay, crossing Monument River (now the 
Cape Cod Canal), and south along Cape Cod's west coast, a moraine of pitch pines 
and scrub oaks, cranberry bogs, and strawberries in sandy soil, small villages with 

136 The Concord Salxterer 

glimpses of water. A stretch of the last four miles from Falmouth ran between 
ocean with cormorants and eiders on one side and ponds with cattails and reeds, 
saltspray rose and bittersweet on the other. Muir noted it: "Fine woods all the way 
perhaps 90 ms. Many fine residences of rich people seeking summer coolness. 
Magnificent Asters & goldenrods[.] deep glacial bays, heavy drift[.] Extreme end 
of Cape sandy*' (JMJ). 

Two-and-a-half hours and seventy-two miles after departing Boston, 
they pulled into Woods Hole, whose depot is now replaced by a ferry terminal for 
the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Sargent's home was not far: a 
mile east past the north end of Little Harbor, then south three-quarters of a mile 
down Church Street, which passed over the railroad, now a bicycle path from 
Falmouth. The two men. laden with baggage, likely came by carriage, though 
Muir had accidentally lightened his load in New York: "Lost small grip by 
mistake of a gentleman who left his in exchange" (JMJ. 17 September 1898). 
From Church Street a long drive descended to the back of a gracious home that 
incorporated the oldest dwelling in the village, once an inn.- 1 On the south side, 
the main door opened into a reception area with dining room to the right and parlor 
to the left, both with shallow brick fireplaces. Beyond the dining room, a 
commodious kitchen and pantry: beyond the parlor, another entryway. this one 
with stairs to the second-floor bedrooms. They arrived in time for tea. 

"Met Mrs. Sargent & the fine girls & manly boys just getting ready for 
Harvard," Muir commented in his journal (JMJ). Some twenty-five years earlier, 
on 26 November 1873. at Emmanuel Church in Boston. Charles Sargent, thirty- 
two, married Mary Allen Robeson, twenty, a woman of refinement, wealth, and, 
like Muir. Scottish ancestry. Asa Gray of Harvard, who the previous summer had 
been botanizing in Yosemite Valley with John Muir. attended their wedding. 
Surely he told them about Muir. 22 

At the time of Muir' s visit, the Sargents had five children, three daugh- 
ters and two sons. The oldest. Henrietta, twenty-four, was not present. Though 
Sargent had not written Muir about her marriage to architect Guy Lowell on 17 
May. he undoubtedly noted that event now to explain her absence. So Muir 
greeted Molly (Mary) and Alice, ages twenty and sixteen. On 25 January 1908 
Molly would marry Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch Potter of Columbia University and 
thereafter reside in New York. Alice, staying single, would remain at home in 
Brookline. Andrew Robeson, twenty-two that December, and Charles, four years 
younger, would graduate Harvard in 1900 and 1902 (as their father had in 1862). 
pursuing careers in landscape architecture and finance, respectively. 23 

After graduation. Andrew, or "Bobo" as he was called, worked in the 
Boston office of his brother-in-law. Guy Lowell. Muir came to know Andrew best 
of the children. Five years after Muir's visit to Cape Cod, Muir and Andrew and 
Sargent would travel around the world. From May to December 1903, from 
Boston to Shanghai, they explored gardens and forests, collecting a trove of seeds. 

J. Parker Huber 137 

before going their separate ways. The two Sargents returned home, where 
Andrew reported to the press the "incalculable value" of their study. 24 Muir went 
on to India, Egypt, Australia, and New Zealand before coming back to California 
in May 1904. Andrew died of pneumonia in 1918 at age forty-two. 25 In his short 
life he designed superb gardens on Cape Cod, the North Shore, Islesboro (Maine), 
and Long Island. 

On the day of Muir's arrival at the Sargent family summer home, he 
closed his travel diary: "Still sick unable to eat the fine dinner prepared for me — a 
miserable trip" (JMJ). The rearrangement of his insides precluded any leisure 
feast enlivened by storytelling, any strolls along the shore, any engagement with 
the environment, spirited or otherwise. The next day, Sunday, 18 September 
1898, he was still healing. His diary entry contains only twenty words. As there is 
nothing about Cape Cod, Muir must have stayed put. Presumably, he at least did 
not miss the view from Sargent's of Little Harbor, of spritsails and ferries crossing 
Vineyard Sound, of Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands — the closest 
being Nonamesset, two miles distant; and almost touching it, the largest in the 
chain, Naushon. 

On one of those Elizabeth Islands, Penikese (which Muir could not see), 
a coeducational summer school of natural history was created in 1873 by Harvard 
professor Louis Agassiz, whose glacial theories informed Muir's. 26 The August 
before this, 1872, Agassiz' s illness prevented his meeting John Muir in California 
and seeing the Sierra Nevada. In 1 893, five years before his Cape Cod visit, Muir 
made a pilgrimage to Agassiz' s homeland, Switzerland. In Neuchatel, at whose 
university Agassiz had been professor of natural history from 1832 until his 
coming to America in 1846, Muir observed: "another beautiful & quaint old town 
on the shore of a lovely lake more than 20 miles long." 27 Here Agassiz, in a stone 
shelter dubbed "Hotel des Neuchatelois" on the great medial moraine of Aar 
glacier, had monitored the motion of the ice. 

Two of the students attending Agassiz' s lectures that summer of 1873 on 
Penikese were David Starr Jordan, an 1872 graduate of Cornell University, and 
Susan Bowen, a teacher at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. They returned the 
next year. Even though Agassiz had died in December of 1873, his only son, 
Alexander, managed the school for its second season, after which it closed 
forever. Jordan and Bowen were married on 10 March 1875. They lived in 
Indiana, where he taught at what is now Butler University until becoming presi- 
dent of Indiana University in January 1885. In December of that year, Bowen 
died. 28 When David Starr Jordan came to California in 1891 as president of the 
new Leland Stanford University, he knew about Muir both from Muir's essay on 
water ouzels and from their mutual friend, Catharine Merrill in Indiana. 29 In 
California, they became friends and collaborated in behalf of forest conserva- 
tion. 30 In a 1903 letter to Muir, Jordan expressed regret over not visiting Muir at 
Martinez: "One trouble is that we have such absolute confidence in your sound- 

138 The Concord Saunterer 

ness and sweetness that we do not need to watch you all the time as we might some 
poet of whose personality we were less sure." 31 

Boston Again 

On that Sunday of 1898 Muir and Sargent returned to Boston by late 
afternoon train, while the Sargent family stayed in Woods Hole. The boys did not 
have to be at Harvard until later in September; the girls were not in school. Molly 
Sargent would soon be bound for Europe to join her older sister, Henrietta, in 
Paris. On 26 October Sargent and Muir would escort her to New York. They 
would stay at the Albermarle Hotel at Madison Square West, "a small but 
expensive [two dollars a night!] & convenient house" where they would enjoy a 
"[f]ine champagne supper" including Molly's suitor, a Mr. Jay, with whom they 
would have some fun the next day: "Sargent teases him by inviting me to ship to 
see Molly off taking his [Mr. Jay's] place in carriage. Amusing half earnest talk 
with Jay advising him to run away & leave all — ropes would not hold me I said" 

Meanwhile, back in Boston from Cape Cod on 1 8 September, Muir had a 
"fine drive in Sargent's cab thru park to Brookline" (JMJ). Their route — four 
miles westward — to Holm Lea, Sargent's home, probably followed the Back Bay 
Fens and Muddy River greenway created by Frederick Law Olmsted. Since 1 883 
Olmsted had lived at 99 Warren Street, across the street from Sargent. Though 
Muir and Olmsted had much in common, and it would have been convenient for 
them to meet here, they did not do so. Failing memory had forced Olmsted's 
retirement in 1895 at age seventy-three. For some time he had been secluded on 
Deer Island, Maine, until this very month of September 1898 when his wife, Mary, 
committed him to McLean Asylum in Waverly (Belmont), Massachusetts, where 
he would die on 28 August 1903. 32 Muir wrote of his arrival at Sargent's home, 
"Eat toast & to bed'" (JMJ). 

The next day, Monday, 19 September, Muir recuperated at Sargent's — 
"sleeping sauntering reading still sick" (JMJ). Their only visitor was Walter H. 
Page, whom they telegraphed to come for lunch. Page, forty-three, had just 
assumed the editorship of the Atlantic Monthly in August. Three years ago he had 
come to the magazine as assistant to the editor, Horace E. Scudder. Serendipity 
brought Page and Sargent together in February 1897. The editor wanted forest 
articles; the arborphile knew the perfect person. They both wrote John Muir 
asking for his words. 33 Muir granted their wish, though not immediately. First, he 
had a commitment to Harper's Weekly for "The National Parks and Forest 
Reservations," which appeared in June. August's Atlantic Monthly, however, 
carried Muir's "The American Forests" to the great joy of his solicitors. 34 From 
then on, Muir was welcome at that prestigious magazine. "Wild Parks and Forest 
Reservations of the West" followed there in January 1898 and "Yellowstone 
National Park" in April. 

J. Parker Huber 139 

Page liked Muir's "bird and beast articles" and published them in the 
Atlantic Monthly in November and December. 35 The next year, 1899, Page 
published another Muir park piece; then two more the next year, and the next. 
Eventually, these ten essays became Our National Parks, published by Houghton 
Mifflin and Company of Boston in 1901. "To you and Sargent," Muir thanked 
Page, "it owes its existence; for before I got your urgent and encouraging letters I 
never dreamed of writing such a book." 36 On 25 October 1 898 Muir would be at 
Page's home, 9 Riedesel Avenue, Cambridge. That afternoon Muir and Page's 
wife, Willia Alice Wilson, "Allie", would call on Jane Loring Gray at 79 Garden 
Street, a few blocks away. She had been married to Asa Gray for almost forty 
years when he died in 1888. Apparently, Muir would spend that night with the 
Pages. 37 Seven years later, in the spring of 1905, the Pages would be guests of the 
Muirs in Martinez, California. 38 

During the two-hour conversation at Sargent's house the day after their 
return from Cape Cod, Muir and his host probably outlined their upcoming 
southern journey for Page, who was a native of North Carolina. Muir summed up 
their meeting: "had good chat. Smart fellow" (JMJ). 

At 10:00 A.M. the next day, Tuesday, 20 September 1898, Muir and 
Sargent headed south by train for two days. It was not until the twenty-fourth, 
when walking among the rhododendrons atop Roan Mountain on the Tennessee- 
North Carolina border, that Muir felt well for the first time since leaving home 
more than two weeks before. 39 

Appendix A 

John Muir's Index to Thoreau's Cape Cod (Houghton Mifflin, 1897) 

Explanation: Line one contains Muir's holograph (italics added) with the heading 
and page number(s). The corresponding chapter and page(s) in the Princeton 
edition of Cape Cod are cited in brackets. Below that, the passage to which Muir 
refers is described and/or quoted. Finally, if Muir also marked in the margin of the 
page, the nature of his mark (vertical or horizontal) and the number of text lines it 
covers are indicated in italics within brackets. 

"Immortality 12" 

["The Shipwreck," 10] 

Thoreau remarks of the dead: "[T]hey were within a mile of its shores; but, before 
they could reach it, they emigrated to a newer world than ever Columbus dreamed 
of, yet one of whose existence we believe that there is far more universal and 
convincing evidence." [Muir vertical line, three lines] 

140 The Coscord Sauxterer 

-Datura 16" 

["The Shipwreck." 12] 

This plant, called Jimsonweed or Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium). Thoreau 
found on the beach in Hull. Massachusetts. 25 June 1851. From Asia. Thoreau 
says, it was "carried in ballast all over the world." It was also called Jamestown 
weed in Robert Beverley. The History of Virginia < 1722). from which Thoreau 
draws an anecdote of its strange effects on soldiers who ate it. [Muir vertical line, 
two lines] 

-minds fresh 22" 

["Stage-Coach Views," 16] 

Thoreau asserts that stereotypical postcard villages like Sandwich are not beauti- 
ful "to him who. with unprejudiced senses, has just come out of the woods." [Muir 
horizontal line, one line] 

"Thoreau 26 85 111 244" 

["Stage-Coach Views," 19] 

"But we respect them [toothless women] not the less for all that: our own dental 
system is far from perfect." [Muir vertical line, between lines] [Note: "If I have 
got false teeth." Thoreau reported in his Journal on 12 May 1851. "I trust that I 
have not got a false conscience." Muir did not comment on this passage in his 
copy of the 1906 edition of Thoreau' s Joumah II. 194). | See Princeton Journal 3: 
1848-1 85 7.218.)] 

["The Beach." 57] 

Thoreau cooks a clam for dinner. [Muir vertical line, more than two lines] 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman." 73-74] 

Thoreau tells his host that he is sick from the clam he ate. 

["The Sea and the Desert." 160] 

A resident shows him "the best locality for straw berries." expecting Thoreau. a 
stranger, not to return. "I therefore feel bound in honor not to reveal it." [Muir 
vertical line, more than three lines] 

"Apple Trees 37" 

["The Plains of Nauset." 25-26] 

Thoreau describes wind-shaped configurations of apple trees in hollows, quoting 

J. Parker Huber 141 

their owner, "'I got him out of the woods, but he doesn't bear.'" [Muir vertical 
line, one line] 

"Hunting 43" 

['The Plains of Nauset," 29] 

A 1695 Eastham ordinance, passed to protect cornfields, required that for a man to 

marry he had to kill six blackbirds or three crows. [Muir vertical line, five lines] 

"Schools 53" 

['The Plains of Nauset." 35-36] 

"Also, a duty was put on mackerel here to support a free-school: in other words, 
the mackerel-school was taxed, in order that the children's school might be free." 
[Muir vertical line on page 52, more than two lines] 

"Waves & falls 66" 

["The Beach." 44-45] 

"The waves broke on the bars at some distance from the shore . . . like a thousand 
waterfalls." "The breakers looked like droves of a thousand wild horses of 
Neptune." [Muir vertical line, more than two lines] 

"Gulls 83" 

["The Beach," 55] 

Thoreau relates a method of catching gulls used in Wellfleet in 1794, whereby 
gulls are drawn to a whale-flesh-covered house from which a man reaches out and 
catches them. [Muir vertical lines in three places, more than six lines total] 

"Religion 117" 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman." 78] 

"He was curious to know to what religious sect we belonged." [Muir vertical line, 

three lines] 

"Spoils of Sea 137" 

["The Beach Again," 90-92] 

Thoreau muses about curiosities fish have swallowed. [Muir vertical line, two 
lines] A certificate of membership in the Methodist Church was found in one. 
[Muir vertical line, four lines on page 138] Thoreau finds cord and buoy, which 

142 The Concord Saunterer 

he takes home and uses for a garden line. [Muir vertical line, more than two lines 
on page 138] Of a half-full bottle of red ale in the sand, he comments, "all that 
remained I fancied from the wreck of a rowdy world." [Muir vertical line, two 
lines on page 139] 

"Color 141 232" 

["The Beach Again," 93-94] 

Thoreau finds the sea of all colors; he quotes English artist William Gilpin in 

affirmation. [Muir vertical line, more than two lines] 

["The Sea and the Desert," 152] 

"I never saw an autumnal landscape so beautifully painted as this was." [Muir 

vertical line, five lines] 

"Weather etc. 144" 

["The Beach Again," 95] 

Thoreau quotes Humboldt on Columbus as he approached the New World: '"The 
grateful coolness of the evening air, the ethereal purity of the starry firmament, the 
balmy fragrance of flowers.'" [Muir vertical line, three lines] 

"Sea life —151" 

["The Beach Again," 99] 

Thoreau invokes testimony of naturalists that "'the sea, and not the land, is the 

principal seat of life.'" [Muir vertical line, three lines, broken] 

"Gardens — 154" 

["Across the Cape," 102] 

"When the roses were in bloom, these patches in the midst of the sand displayed 

such a profusion of blossoms, mingled with the aroma of the bayberry, that no 

Italian or other artificial rose-garden could equal them." [Muir vertical line, two 


"Across the sea 213" 

["The Sea and the Desert," 140] 
Thoreau thinks that he can see Spain. 

J. Parker Huber 143 

"Sandhills 247" 

["The Sea and the Desert," 161-62] 

Thoreau cites "Description of the Eastern Coast" on the role of beach grass in 

forming sand dunes. [Muir vertical line, eight lines] 

"Cod 258" 

["Provincetown," 169] 

Thoreau encounters cod drying in front yards of houses and in stacks on wharves. 

He ridicules the rumored practice of feeding cod's heads to cows. 

"Pilgrims 311" 

["Provincetown," 202] 

Thoreau makes the point that the Pilgrims of Plymouth were pioneers, not explor- 
ers, "and the ancestors of pioneers, in a far grander enterprise." 

"Boston 325" 

["Provincetown," 211-15] 

Arriving by steamer, Thoreau describes the Boston commercial scene. 

"LastPgs good 326" 

["Provincetown," 211-15] 

Muir refers to the conclusion, pages 326-31, wherein Thoreau reflects on his 
visits. Thoreau says he prefers to come to Cape Cod in autumn when the 
atmosphere is clearer, the storms more prevalent. He foresees the day when this 
will be a prime resort. "But this shore will never be more attractive than it is now." 
[Muir vertical line, last six lines] 

Appendix B 
John Muir's Index to Thoreau's Cape Cod (Houghton Mifflin, 1906) 

Explanation: Same as Appendix A. 

"57 Seawaves like 1000 waterfalls along shore" 

144 The Coscord Saunterer 

["The Beach." 44] 

•"The waves broke on the bars at some distance from the shore . . . like a thousand 

waterfalls. ** [Muir vertical line, six lines] 

"[5]8 Breakers like droves of wild horses ofXeptune 

rushing to shore with white manes streaming — 

& sea weeds like tails of sea cows" 

["The Beach." 45] 

As above. Muir is paraphrasing Thoreau. [Muir vertical line, 16 lines] 

"[5]9 Cape Cod man " 

["The Beach." 45] 

Thoreau encounters a "wrecker" looking for driftwood, whose face "was like an 
old sail endowed with life — a hanging-cliff of weather-beaten flesh." [Muir 
vertical line, nvo lines] "He looked as if he sometimes saw a dough-nut. but never 
descended to comfort; too grave to laugh, too tough to cry: as indifferent as a 
clam — like a sea-clam with hat on and legs, that was out walking the strand." 
[Muir vertical line, four lines] 

"68 Marine plants" 

["The Beach." 52] 

"This kelp, oar-weed, tangle, devil" s-apron. sole-leather, or ribbon-weed. — as 
various species are called." [Muir vertical line, two lines. Muir also places 
vertical line by next sentence, which begins. " All that is told."] "One species of 
kelp, according to Bon St. Vincent, has a stem fifteen hundred feet long." [Muir 
horizontal line] 

"71 Waves 156. 177. 186 316" 

["The Beach." 55] 

Thoreau* s simile, notes of gulls are like "a ragged shred of ocean music tossed 

aloft on the spray." must have reminded Muir of waves. [Muir horizontal line] 

["The Highland Light." 123] 

Thoreau compares bay and ocean surfs. "When the waves run very high it is 
impossible to get a boat off . . . for it w ill often be completely covered by the 
curving edge of the approaching breaker as by an arch." [Muir vertical line, two 


J. Parker Huber 145 

["The Sea and the Desert," 140] 

"We wished to associate with the Ocean until it lost the pond-like look." Muir also 
indexes this in Cape Cod under "Sea looks like lake." [Muir vertical line, two 
lines] After quoting "'the countless smilings of the ocean waves,'" Thoreau puns, 
"though some of them were pretty broad grins." [Muir vertical line, two lines] 

["The Sea and the Desert," 147] 

"The waves forever rolling to the land are too far-travelled and untamable to be 

familiar." [Muir vertical line, three lines] 

["Provincetown," 170(?)] 

Cape Cod ends on page 273. Muir's reference to page 316 falls in the "Miscella- 
nies" section of this volume on the first page of "Thomas Carlyle and His Works." 
Here Thoreau tells of Carlyle' s conversation with nature in Wordsworth country 
with "the last lapses of Atlantic billows." [Muir vertical line, two lines] See Early 
Essays and Miscellanies, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer and Edwin Moser, with 
Alexander Kern (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1975), 219. It is possible Muir 
made a mistake, meaning page 216 instead of 316, which would reference the 
"Provincetown" chapter of Cape Cod; however, waves are absent here. 

"74 Lit. 89, 97. 101. 113" 

[Note: "Lit." is Muir's abbreviation for "Literature."] 

["The Beach," 57] 

"though the wind still blowed as hard and the breakers ran as high as before." 

[Muir horizontal line] 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman," 69] 

Hearing from the Wellfleet Oysterman of an earthquake that "cracked the pans of 
the ponds," Thoreau responded, "I did not remember to have read of this." [Muir 
vertical line, one line] 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman," 76] 

That night Thoreau "could not distinguish the roar which was proper to the ocean 
from that which was due to the wind alone." [Muir vertical line, two lines] 
"Hollow, between me and the ocean, and suspecting" [Muir horizontal line] 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman," 79] 

Thoreau "learned that our hospitable entertainers did at least transiently harbor the 
suspicion that we were the men." The robbers of the Provincetown Bank, that is! 
[Muir horizontal line] 

146 The Concord Saunterer 

["The Beach Again," 89] 

Thoreau watches piping plovers, noting that "The wet sand was covered with small 
skipping Sea Fleas, which apparently make a part of their food." [Muir vertical line, 
seven lines] I am indebted to my friend Robert Prescott, Director of the Massachu- 
setts Audubon Society Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, for identifying Sea Fleas as 
Beach Fleas, Talorchestia megalophthalma, and for confirming that they are eaten by 
piping plovers, as Thoreau suspects. Thoreau also saw what "may have been a 
Phalarope." "It was a little creature thus to sport with the ocean, but it was as perfect 
a success in its way as the breakers in theirs." [Muir vertical line, three lines] Muir 
also indexes this page under "Shore birds." Helen Cruickshank cites this same 
paragraph in her Thoreau on Birds (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 297. 

"83 Oysters" 

["The Wellfleet Oysterman," 65] 

"The old man said that the oysters were liable to freeze in the winter, if planted too 
high; but if it were not 'so cold as to strain their eyes' they were not injured." 
[Muir vertical line, three lines] 

"102 Bay berries" 

["The Beach Again," 80] 

Thoreau quotes Robert Beverley's History of Virginia (1705): "'The melting of 
these berries is said to have been first found out by a surgeon in New England, 
who performed wonderful things with a salve made of them.'" [Muir vertical line, 
three lines on page 103 where all but first word of quotation appears] 

"[1]09 Pebbles" 

["The Beach Again," 85] 

Thoreau filled his pocket with pebbles, discarding those whose dryness dulled 
their beauty. "I have also seen very perfect pebbles of brick, and bars of Castile 
soap from a wreck rolled into perfect cylinders, and still spirally streaked with red, 
like a barber's pole." [Muir vertical line, six lines] 

"[1]11 Tails ofLimulus used by Ind[ian]s as arrow-" 

["The Beach Again," 87] 

This refers to Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus. [Muir horizontal line] 

J. Parker Huber 147 

"[l]13 Shore birds" 

['The Beach Again," 89] 

See above, last item under "Lit." 

"[1]14 Wrecks 125. 158. 161" 

["The Beach Again," 90] 

"We saw this forenoon a part of the wreck of a vessel, probably the Franklin." 
[Muir vertical line, two lines] One wrecker showed Thoreau the pear and plum 
trees in his garden, gifts of salvage. 

["The Beach Again," 98] 

"Yet this same placid Ocean . . . will erelong be lashed into sudden fury." [Muir 
vertical line, two lines] "It will ruthlessly heave these vessels to and fro, break 
them in pieces in its sandy or stony jaws." 

["The Highland Light," 124-25] 

"Over this bare Highland the wind has full sweep. Even in July it blows the wings 
over the heads of the young turkeys." [Muir vertical line, three lines] "It was said 
in 1794 that more vessels were cast away on the east shore of Truro than anywhere 
in Barnstable County. . . . [S]ometimes more than a dozen wrecks are visible from 
this point at one time." 

["The Highland Light," 126] 

The fleet of pirate Bellamy wrecked on a bar off Wellfleet in 1717. A survivor 
supposedly returned each spring and autumn to tap a hidden stash of gold. [Muir 
vertical line, three lines] 

"[1]19 Color of sea" 

["The Beach Again," 93] 

"To-day it was the Purple Sea. . . . There were distinct patches of the color of a 

purple grape with the bloom rubbed off." [Muir vertical line, three lines] 

"[1]21 Nothing remarkable done in prosaic mood 123" 

["The Beach Again," 95] 

[Muir vertical line, two lines] The Princeton edition restores "memorable" for 

remarkable. See "Textual Notes" 95.7 on page 383. 

148 The Coscord Salwterer 

["The Beach Again." 96] 

Muir's only mark on page 123 is beside "I felt that I was a land animal." [Muir 
vertical line, two lines] His reference to a land animal may relate to Sir Humphrey 
Gilbert's last words when his ship was hit by a storm. "'We are as near to Heaven 
by sea as by land.*" which Thoreau quotes (97). 

"[1]22 Ships" 

["The Beach Again." 95-96] 

Thoreau comments on what great distances vessels could be seen across sea. 

-[1124 Shallow sear 

["The Beach Again." 97] 

Thoreau is surprised to find Massachusetts [Cape Cod] Bay so shallow: "Off 
Billingsgate Point I could have touched the bottom with a pole." He gives the 
depth of the English Channel at 180 feet. [Muir vertical line, three lines] 

"[1]69 Lighthouse" 

["The Highland Light." 132-33] 

While staying at Highland Light. Thoreau accompanied the keeper while he 

lighted the lamps, and learned of the challenges of keeping them shining. 

"|7777 Sea looks like lake to those seeing 1st time 
& vast only to those who see O 188" 

["The Sea and the Desert." 139-40] 

"We wished to associate with the Ocean until it lost the pond-like look which it 

wears to a countryman." [Muir vertical line, two lines] 

["The Sea and the Desert." 148-49] 

"The ocean is a wilderness reaching round the globe." Thoreau concluded. [Muir 

vertical line, six lines, broken] 

"[1]93 Color" 

["The Sea and the Desert." 152-53] 

Thoreau is stunned by Provinceland Dunes: "I never saw an autumnal landscape 

so beautifully painted as this was. It was like the richest rug imaginable There 

was the incredibly bright red of the Huckleberry, and the reddish brown of the 

J. Parker Huber 149 

Bayberry, mingled with the bright and living green of small Pitch-Pines/' And 
more. [Muir vertical line, nine lines] 

"269-73 Tourists to seashore v.g. [very good]" 

['"Provincetown," 214-15] 

'The time must come when this coast will be a place of resort. ... At present it is 
wholly unknown to the fashionable world. . . . But this shore will never be more 
attractive than it is now." [The only Muir marks in these five pages occur in the 
last paragraph, two lines and final seven lines] 


The railroad came to Sandwich in 1848 and Hyannis in 1854. Henry C. Kittredge. 
Cape Cod (1930: Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1968). 154. 

For a detailed account of Thoreau* s lecture see Nantucket Inquirer, 1 January 
1855 [2]. On 15 September 1975 I read this newspaper summary and review of the 
lecture at the Atheneum on Nantucket, where Thoreau lectured: it is published in The 
Thoreau Society Bulletin. Winter 1984 [1-3] thanks to Don Jordan. Thoreau" s lecture 
trip, never a part of Cape Cod, was recorded in his Journal (25-29 December 1 854). a 
section Muir read, indexing one item. "97 Persecution, baptists g[ood]." which refers 
to Thoreau' s comment on verses by Peter Folger in Obed Macy's History of Nantucket 
(Boston: Hilliard. Bray. 1835) that God would punish "for the sin of persecution and 
the like, the banishing and whipping of godly men.*' Muir must have recalled his 
father's chastisement of him as a boy — see John Muir. The Story of My Boyhood and 
Youth (1913; Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press. 1965). especially 69. Muir also 
placed vertical lines beside the last four stanzas by Folger in Thoreau' s Journal (VII. 
97-98). Muir read and indexed passages from the fourteen-volume Journal edited by 
Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen and published as part of the 1906 Houghton 
Mifflin edition (Boston) of The Writings ofHeniy David Thoreau. 

"The 1857 Excursion" from Thoreau* s Journal (12-22 June) was not included in 
Cape Cod until 195 1, when W. W. Norton published an edition assembled by Dudley 
C. Lunt — see "Historical Introduction" in Cape Cod. ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988). 295. That Muir read this is indicated by his 
identifying one and the same item with a vertical line in the margin of the text and in 
his index of this account: "397 Bobolink song 446, " which refers to "A child asked 
concerning a bobolink. "What makes he sing so sweet. Mother? Do he eat flowers?'" 
(20 June 1857; IX. 446). Bobolinks are still prevalent on Cape Cod. 

Thoreau kept journals of his Cape Cod tours. Those of 1849 and 1859 were 
mostly removed from his journal in preparation for lecturing and publishing — see 
William Rossi, "Historical Introduction" in Journal 3: 1848-1851. ed. Robert 
Sattelmeyer. Mark R. Patterson, and William Rossi (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 
1990), 484-85, 490. Thus, they were not part of the 1906 edition of the Journal. His 

ISO The Concord Saunterer 

5-18 July 1855 record is in the 1906 Journal, VII, 432-43; Muir neither marked nor 
indexed any of these pages. 

2 Thoreau, Journal, 27 June 1 856. Muir notes nothing on this date, though he marks the 
last paragraph of 26 June 1856 (vertical line, four lines). See also Daniel Ricketson, 
The History of New Bedford (New Bedford: Privately Printed, 1858), 125-29. Ricketson, 
whom Thoreau had been visiting in New Bedford, accompanied him to Naushon. Had 
Thoreau lived longer, we can imagine his returning to Naushon with Emerson. In his 
Journal Thoreau also mentions seeing Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard "with my 
glass" (VIII, 393). 

3 Thoreau lectured on Cape Cod in Massachusetts on 23 and 30 January 1850 in 
Concord; 18 February 1850 in South Danvers; 6 December 1850 in Newburyport; 1 
January 1851 in Clinton; and in Portland, Maine, on 15 January 1851. See Raymond 
R. Borst, The Thoreau Log (New York: G. K. Hall, 1992), 162, 163, 174, 176, 177, 
respectively. For details of these lectures see Bradley P. Dean and Ronald Wesley 
Hoag, "Thoreau' s Lectures Before Walden: An Annotated Calendar" in Studies in the 
American Renaissance 1995, ed. Joel Myerson (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of 
Virginia, 1995), 127-228. 

4 See "Historical Introduction" in Cape Cod (Princeton), 249. 

5 Muir' s copy of Thoreau' s Cape Cod is in the Rare Book Department of The Library of 
The Huntington, San Marino, California. Date on title page is MDCCCXCVII [1897]; 
copyrights, 1864 and 1893. The volume contains no inscription nor dates of acquisi- 
tion or reading. I am grateful for permission of The Library of The Huntington to 
quote from this book and to reproduce Muir's index in my Appendix A. 

6 Muir's copy is in his library with the Holt-Atherton Special Collections (HASC), 
University of the Pacific Libraries, Stockton, California. Again, this copy contains 
neither inscription nor dates of acquisition or reading. I have related the history of 
Muir's purchase of this set in "John Muir and Thoreau' s Maine," The Concord 
Saunterer 3 (1995): 113. 

7 Letter, John Muir to Louie Muir, 13 September 1898, Duluth, Minnesota, in John 
Muir Papers (JMP), HASC. All quotations from unpublished material in The John 
Muir Collections, as well as the information in my Appendix B, are by permission of 
HASC, copyright 1984 Muir-Hanna Trust. 

8 John Muir Journal (holograph), 12 September 1898, JMP. Subsequent references to 
his journal appear as JMJ parenthetically in the text. The date is only given when 
unclear in text. 

9 Letter, John Muir to Helen Muir, 10 September 1898, Montana, JMP. 

10 Letter, John Muir to Louie Muir, 13 September 1898, Duluth, Minnesota, JMP. 

1 1 Letter, John Muir to Wanda Muir, 20 September 1898, Boston, Massachusetts, JMP. 

12 See William A. McKenzie, Dining Car Line to the Pacific: An Illustrated History of 
the NP Railway's "Famously Good" Food, with 150 Authentic Recipes (Saint Paul: 
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990); Great Northern Secrets (no publisher, no 
date). Connie Hoffman, Secretary of the Great Northern Railway Historical Society, 
Berkley, Michigan, dates this booklet of dining car recipes to 1932. She has no menus 
before 1920 in her collection. James E. Vance, Jr., The North American Railroad: Its 
Origin, Evolution and Geography (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995) and 
Sarah H. Gordon, Passage to Union: How Railroads Transformed American Life, 

J. Parker Huber 151 

1829-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996) offer good overviews. 

13 Letter, John Muir to Louie Muir, 13 September 1898, Duluth, Minnesota, JMP. 

14 Though Muir does not identify his steamer, it was most likely one of the three iron 
ones — India, China, Japan — of the Anchor Line of the Erie and Western Transporta- 
tion Company. Their 1896 brochure gives a flavor of what Muir experienced: 
"Running water, electric lights and the best of beds in each room. . . . Wide promenade 
decks extend entirely around the steamer. . . . The Excellence of the Table is an 
especial feature of this line." And later under "Of Interest to Tourists": "the epicurean 
who enjoys a fish diet will appreciate the delicious Lake Trout and Whitefish always 
included in the menu on the steamers of this line." My gratitude to C. Patrick Labadie, 
Director, Canal Park Marine Museum, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Duluth, Minne- 
sota. The menus consulted from this period show little change. 

15 For a photograph of the Boston and Providence Railroad Station in Park Square and 
for information on the construction of South Station see Walter Muir Whitehill, 
Boston: A Topographical History (1959; Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975), 102 
and 189. Until South Station was completed in 1900, railroads had various terminals. 

This Adams House (1883) closed in 1927 and was demolished in 1931. Calvin 
Coolidge resided here while serving Massachusetts as lieutenant governor and gover- 
nor. A former Adams House occupied this site form 1 846 to 1 883, the successor of the 
Lamb Tavern. See John Harris, Historic Walks in Old Boston (1982: Chester, Conn.: 
Globe Pequot Press, 1989), 192-93. A closed, disheveled Paramount Theatre (built 
1932) sits here now (13 September 1995), two blocks southeast of the Common. 

16 William M. Canby (183 1-1904) discovered a new species of Hawthorn in Wilmington. 
Delaware, in October 1898, which Sargent named Crataegus Canbyi in his honor. I 
cannot verify that Muir and Sargent were with him at the time, though it is likely. For 
a description of this plant and a biography of Canby, see Charles S. Sargent, The Silva 
of North America (1902; Magnolia, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1947), 41-42. A Drawing of 
the plant by Charles Edward Faxon follows on an unnumbered page. 

17 Letter, John Muir to Charles S. Sargent, 11 May 1898, Martinez, California, JMP. 
Currently, none of The Silva of North America is in Muir's library at the University of 
the Pacific. 

18 Letter, Charles S. Sargent to John Muir, 2 June 1898, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, 
JMP. Muir sent his review of The Silva of North America to Bliss Perry, editor of the 
Atlantic Monthly, 4 Park Street. Boston, Massachusetts, on 2 March 1903. Perry 
replied on 19 March that he was pleased. This lengthy review appeared in the Atlantic 
Monthly, July 1903 (9-22), while Muir and Sargent were traveling around the world. 
See Letter, John Muir to Charles S. Sargent, 1 March 1903, Martinez, California, JMP. 

19 Letter, Charles S. Sargent to John Muir, 13 July 1898, Jamaica Plain. Massachusetts, 

20 Letter, Charles S. Sargent to John Muir, 15 June 1898, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. 

21 William B. Bacon and Charles S. Sargent — identified incorrectly as G. S. Sargent — 
came down by buggy from Barnstable "one summer day" (the year is not given) and 
bought property jointly; a toss of the coin decided that Sargent would have the house 
and Bacon the open point to the south. So relates Winslow Carlton in "Bankers' Row" 
in Mary Lou Smith, ed., Woods Hole Reflections (Woods Hole, Mass.: Woods Hole 

152 The Coscord Sausterer 

Historical Collection. 1983). 144. 146. On page 13 an undated photograph (probably 
from 1875) shows an earlier form of the Sargent house with carriage house on a 
treeless lot with stone walls. Today the house cannot be seen from the road. Page 23 
offers a view of Little Harbor in 1896. Carlton recounts the same story in "A Stroll 
Through Woods Hole in the Twenties" in Man Lou Smith, ed.. The Book of 
Falmouth (Falmouth. Mass.: Falmouth Historical Commission. 1986). 522. The 
Sargent House is shown as it appeared in 1895 on page 486 (captioned "Abner Davis" 
inn*" i: a contemporary view is on page 523. 

My query to the Woods Hole Historical Commission led to their discovery that 
the Charles S. Sargent home had been miscited as that of G. S. Sargent. (Letter. J. S. 
Gaines. Archivist, to J. Parker Huber. 12 January 1995. Woods Hole. Massachusetts.) 
This house is now known as the Rowe House. The current (1995) owner. Mrs. 
William S. Rowe of Cincinnati. Ohio, has been here virtually even summer of her life 
since her birth in 1918. Her great-grandfather was William B. Bacon (1823-1906). 
Her grandfather was Robert Bacon ( 1860-1919: see Dictionary of American Biogra- 
phx: hereafter. DAB), a partner of J. P. Morgan and assistant Secretary of State. 1905- 
1909. Muir and Robert Bacon had Theodore Roosevelt as a mutual friend: Bacon 
married Martha W. Cowdin (1859-1940). Their daughter. Martha B. Bacon (1890- 
1967). on 2 June 1914 married George Whitnes 1 1865-1963). a banker and a president 
of J. P. Morgan & Company. Their daughter. Martha Phyllis Whitney, married 
William S. Rowe (1916-1988). also a banker (President of the Fifth Third Bank. 
Cincinnati. Ohio) in 1939. After Robert Bacon died, his widow. Mrs. Rowe's 
grandmother, bought the Sargent House. 

22 S. B. Sutton. Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge: 
Hanard Univ. Press. 1970). 20. Sargent's Cape Cod connection came as news to 
Sutton when we spoke 29 March 1995. 

23 DAB. Charles Sprague Sargent: DAB. Guy Lowell, reports marriage in April 1898: 
Thanks to Arnold Arboretum librarians Carol David and Rebecca Anderson, my 
source for dates is Emma Worcester Sargent. Epes Sargent of Gloucester and his 
Descendants (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1923). 158. For Andrew and Charles see 
Epes Sargent. 158-60 and Hanard College Class Reports and Bibliographical Files. 
Hanard University Archives. Cambridge. Massachusetts. 

24 Boston Evening Record. 29 December 1903. 6. 

25 His brother. Charles S. Sargent, who carried his father's name, died 13 February 1959. 

26 New York tobacco tycoon John Anderson gave the island and fifty thousand dollars 
for the school. Edward Lurie. Louis Agassi:.: A Life in Science (1960: Baltimore: 
Johns Hopkins Univ. Press. 1988). 380-81. I. Thomas Buckley. Penikese: Island of 
Hope (N. Chatham. Mass.: Stony Brook Publishing and Productions. 1997). Letter. 
Kate X. Daggett to John Muir. 19 April 1873. Hot Springs. Arkansas. JMP. tells Muir 
about the school. 

27 Letter. John Muir to Wanda Muir. 25 August 1903. St. Moritz. Switzerland. JMP. 

28 DAB. David Starr Jordan. The Days of a Man (Yonkers-on-Hudson. N.Y.: World 
Book Company. 1922). 2 vols. Penikese 1:108-19: marriage. 132 — this is the only 
mention of Susan Bowen in his autobiography. Little is known of Susan Bowen. She 
attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary from 1861 until her graduation in 1864: 
she tausht there from 1868 to 1875. See catalogues of Mount Holvoke Female 

J. Parker Huber 153 

Seminary and biographical notes in Mount Holyoke College Archives, South Hadley, 
Massachusetts — my gratitude to archives librarian Patricia J. Albright. Bowen was 
married in her hometown, Peru, Massachusetts. See also David Starr Jordan, Science 
Sketches (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 1899), Chapter 5, "Agassiz at Penikese," 

29 For ouzels see Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir 
(1945; Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 198. Scribner's Monthly featured 
Muir's "The Humming-Bird of the California Water-Falls" in February 1878. For 
Merrill see Jordan. The Days of a Man 1:217. For Muir on Merrill see "Words From 
An Old Friend," in Catharine Merrill, The Man Shakespeare and Other Essays 
(Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merrill Company Publishers, 1902). 32-38. The first 
chapter of this book, pages 1-5, is a "Biographical Notice" of her. Merrill (1824-1900) 
held the Demia Butler Chair in English Literature at Northwestern Christian Univer- 
sity, now Butler University, in Indianapolis, from 1870 to 1883. (See "Endowed 
Chairs at Butler University," Rare Books and Special Collections, The Irwin Library, 
Butler University. This I take as the most reliable source, though the above "Bio- 
graphical Notice" has her at Butler until 1885 and her obituary in The Indianapolis 
News, 30 May 1900, 4 and 1 1, puts her at Butler in 1873. See also Katharine Merrill 
Gray don. Catharine Merrill: Life and Letters [Greenfield, Ind.: Mitchell Company, 

30 Wolfe. Son of the Wilderness, 198. Jordan even saw the Muir Glacier in Alaska: 
Jordan, Days of a Man, 1:578. 

31 Letter, David Starr Jordan to John Muir, 10 February 1903, Stanford, California. 
Jordan might have been on the Alaskan Harriman Expedition in 1 899 with Muir, but 
he declined (Days of a Man, 11:297). Jordan's tribute to Muir appeared in Sierra. 
January 1916, 7. 

32 "I am quite sure that Olmsted never met Muir," editor Charles E. Beveridge wrote me 
on 24 March 1996. Beveridge added that "Olmsted expressed a desire to do so at a 
time of controversy at Yosemite." Biographer Laura Wood Roper concurs that there 
was no meeting in her letter to me of 21 April 1996. For further information see 
Beveridge's comments in The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Volume 5. The 
California Frontier: 1863-1865. ed. Victoria Post Ranney et al (Baltimore: Johns 
Hopkins Univ. Press, 1990), 466-69 and 473n60: Frederick Law Olmsted to Richard 
Watson Gilder, 1 1 July 1889. 

There is no recovered correspondence between Muir and Olmsted. While no 
books of Frederick Law Olmsted are in Muir's library, there is a copy of The Century 
Magazine, October 1893, with an essay on Olmsted by M. G. van Rensselaer, 860-67. 
which presumably Muir read yet did not mark. Though Mary Olmsted continued to 
live at 99 Warren Street until her death in 1 9 1 3 , Muir does not mention seeing her. See 
Elizabeth Stevenson, Park Maker: A Life of Frederick Law Olmsted (New York: 
MacMillan Publishing Co., 1977), 426-27; Laura Wood Roper, Frederick Law Olmsted 
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), 474-75, 478. 

33 Letters, Charles S. Sargent to John Muir, 26 February 1 897, Jamaica Plain, Massachu- 
setts; Walter H. Page to John Muir, 4 March 1897, Boston, Massachusetts, JMP. 

34 Letter, Charles S. Sargent to John Muir, 22 June 1897, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, 

154 The Cos cord Sauxterer 

35 Letter John Muir to Wanda Muir. 22 September 1898. Cranberry. North Carolina. 

36 Letter. John Muir to Walter H. Page. 10 January 1902. Martinez. California. JMP: in 
William Frederic Bade. The Life and Letters of John Muir (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 

37 Letter. John Muir to Wanda Muir. 28 October 1 898. New York. New York. JMJ. 25 
October 1898. 

38 Letters. John Muir to Walter Page. 9 May 1905. Martinez. California: Walter Page to 
John Muir. 21 December 1905. Englewood. New Jersey — his belated thank you. In 
1899 Page joined the new publishing house of Doubleday. Page and Company in New 
York. The next year he founded The World's Work of which he was editor until 1913. 
DAB. B. J. Hendrick. The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page (New York: Doubleday. 
Page. 1922-1925). 3 volumes. B. J. Hendrick. The Training of an American: The 
Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 1855-1913 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 
1928) contains four of his letters to Muir. 305-7. Walter H. Page. A Publisher's 
Confession (New York: Doubleday. Page. 1923) does not mention Muir. Ellen B. 
Ballou. The Building of the House: Houghton Mifflin's Formative Years (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin. 1970). 457. views Muir in the Atlantic Monthly as "[o]ne of Page's 
singular triumphs."* 

39 Letter. John Muir to Louie Muir. 25 September 1898. Cloudland. North Carolina. 

9{omc Places: 
T,?Ccerpts fromWoodswoman III 

Anne LaBastille 

[Note: Woodswoman III (1997) continues ecologist Anne LaBastille' s account of 
her longstanding engagement with nature in the complex, dynamic, and increas- 
ingly threatened Adirondack wilderness. It is the worthy successor to Woodswoman 
(1976) and Beyond Black Bear Lake (1987). Dr. LaBastille selected the following 
excerpts in part because of their Thoreauvian connections. Woodswoman III is 
published by West of the Wind Publications, Westport, NY.] 

Kestrel Crest Farm 

"Lila" hovered intently above the two electric lines and a power pole that 
stuck out of the farm pond. Her blue-gray wings quivered rapidly as she shrilled, 
"kee, kee, kee." The little falcon frolicked in beautiful curves around the object of 
her attention, swept down to the water's surface, then swooped up to settle atop the 
tall pole. 

A few feet away perched a male. He was smaller, less exuberant, yet 
sleek and glamorous with his russet back and tail, creamy speckled breast, and 
lightly tinted, salmon-rose sides. Lila was the more robust and chunky of the 
two — eleven inches long compared to his nine. I called the male "Windhover," an 
old-time colloquial name and the title of a nineteenth-century poem by Gerard 
Manley Hopkins. 

Suddenly Lila sprang into the air and flew rapidly to the top of a large 
tree which marked the southern edge of my farm. She sat swinging on a slender 
high twig. Now the male shrilled and playfully dove at her. Then Windhover 
grabbed hold of a twig, too. The two birds rested. 

Lila hopped provocatively behind a branch heavy with buds. The male 
followed. I had no doubt they were mating in their airy bower. Minutes later, Lila 
flew powerfully toward the utility pole in the pond. She made one sweeping circle 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

158 The Concord Saunterer 

as a precaution, then glided precisely into the wood duck nest box nailed there. It 
was her time to inspect this most peculiar nesting site. 

I lowered my binocs and sighed contentedly. It was the fourth spring 
since I'd purchased my alternate winter residence that the kestrels had nested here. 
To me, they meant the start of spring and a ritual as passionate and elegant as any 
in the bird world. 

When I bought this farm, I purposely waited a year before naming it. I 
wanted to see which wild creature, plant, or natural event most evoked the essence 
of this place. The kestrels won, wings down. So I called it "Kestrel Crest Farm." 

I'd found the ramshackle homestead after searching for three summers 
around the Lake Champlain valley. A great deal of thought went into this hunt. 
My ecological consulting and book business were growing and expanding nation- 
ally and internationally. My lecturing took me all over the country. In fact, 
"Thoreau and the Woodswoman" is the public's favorite of my seven topics. It 
was harder and harder to manage all this from my remote cabin in winter. 

Ask yourself, dear reader, how you would handle it on a January day with 
wind chill of twenty-two degrees below zero, trying to prepare for a lecture trip, 
say, to West Virginia University? You'd have to sort your slides using a flash- 
light, pack a suitcase with neat business clothes, prepare at least two boxes of 
books for autograph parties, plus readying a slide projector, carousel trays, a 
handbag with tickets and money, food for the dogs whether they stayed at a kennel 
or went with you. two pillows, gifts for possible hostess or friend, and a decent 
winter coat and boots. All this would be heaped onto a toboggan to be pulled over 
the ice, two miles down the lake, while hoping a blizzard or rainstorm wouldn't 
turn the trip treacherous. 

Logistically, I needed a place to work that was near a road, with electric- 
ity (to run projector, iron fancy clothes), a phone and fax (for winter book orders), 
and proximity by turnpike to an airport (two hours drive max). It was important to 
review my slides on a large screen with a projector. Also, I needed more space to 
store boxes of my books, writing and business files, and outdoor gear. My guiding 
service maintained four or five sleeping bags, pads, tents, life vests, and a lot of 
cooking gear. 

On another, more elemental and ecological level, I craved winters with 
more sun, less acid rain and snow, and milder temps; summers with a long 
growing season. A country place with good soil and spring water would enable 
me to grow much of my food and pump my own water — without pesticides, 
chemicals, or chlorine. Self-sufficiency was uppermost in my mind, as was good 

Now, lest the reader think that I'd sold my log cabin and was moving 
permanently into a more civilized setting, let me hasten to say, NO! The cabin is 
still my primary permanent residence. It is my writing studio and retreat, my 
spiritual sanctuary, my sacred space — much as a cabin in Kentucky was for 

Anne LaBastille 159 

Thomas Merton, the priest, hermit, and author, and as a cabin at Walden Pond was 
for Henry David Thoreau. I have no intention of ever leaving and built it to last 
my lifetime. 

Nevertheless on April 18, 1988, I drove along a dirt road and up the 
narrow drive to the crest where my "new" old farmhouse stood. The large stretch 
of lawn and nearby hay fields were already greening up, although patches of snow 
lingered in the ditches and gullies. I noted two kestrels flying above a big tree. 
They had just arrived to build a temporary home for summer, whereas I had just 
arrived to prepare a temporary home for winter. 

From the crest, I could look out toward the Green Mountains of Vermont. 
Lake Champlain lay hidden in the deep fold between New York and this adjacent 
state. The mountains stretched away in shades of denim blue and mauve. I eased 
out of my truck and walked with the dogs to the farm pond. It looked powder blue 
under the early spring sky. A fringe of cattails poked like platinum spikes from the 
cold water. The sun was setting behind me while red-wings whistled cheerily. 

Unlocking the door, I moved swiftly through the two-story, empty, cold, 
dank, smelly building. I suddenly realized I might have made one of the worst 
mistakes of my life! The place was filthy; no welcome note from the past owner 
awaited me. No instructions lay on the counter about anything. I'd purchased the 
eighty-five-year-old farmhouse after only two visits and barely knew where the 
water pump, master fuse box, garage keys, and septic system were. Huge 
watermarks stained every ceiling inside. The roof showed shabby shingles with 
probably dozens of leaks. Cobwebs and dust piles were everywhere. Scarred, old 
gray linoleum covered the floors. Yet when I'd seen the place earlier, carpeting 
and antique pieces had given an ambiance of a "quaint old farmstead." 

Next morning I planned an assault on the house, making a long list of 
"Things To Do." April 19 found me scurrying from room to room in rubber 
gloves, with a bandanna over my nose and mouth, carrying pails of soapy water 
mixed with Comet, Clorox, and Mr. Clean, plus dusters and brooms. The dogs 
were tied outdoors, for fear they'd irritate their paws on the scrubbed floors. By 
afternoon the smell of cleansers was positively toxic. But the bathroom glistened. 
Every room was free of cobwebs and dust balls. Windows shone. The power was 
on. So was the water pump. The old house smelled clean. 

The silence was palpable. A spring sunset slanted through tall old 
windows. My family mementos and furniture — so long in storage — felt friendly 
around me. They completely filled the six small rooms. I needed to buy nothing! 
The dogs dozed on pastel rugs. I tried to imagine what the cabin looked like right 
now. It would certainly be freezing cold with some snow and ice on the ground 
and lake. No birds would be singing. Not a sign of green anywhere. However, my 
sleeping loft would look enticing with its down quilt and woolen blankets. I 
started to feel homesick. No! That would never do. 

Little by little over the next three years, as time and finances allowed, I 
fixed up the farmhouse. I also made a dent in the cluttered outbuildings. There 

160 The Cos cord Saisterer 

were two huge, eighty-five-year-old barns with connecting workroom, a tottering 
chicken coop, one pesticide-filled garden shed, and the garbage-clogged garage. 
Each was filled with stacks of magazines, old lumber, broken furniture, vehicles, 
and cracked dishes, having served as residential dump sites for each owner. I took 
what must have been hundreds of loads of junk to the local landfill, sold seven 
thousand pounds of old metal to a scrap dealer, disposed of the chemicals 
responsibly, and burned piles of trash. 

I never stopped working. I never got bored. Winters I had projects 
galore. What had I done with all those idle winter hours at the cabin. I wondered, 
besides cam firewood, shovel snow, chop holes in the ice for water, and write? 
Life there now seemed so simple, restful, and Thoreau\ ian. 

New and satisfying compensations, however, filled those early spring 
days. Dawns blushing soft. pink, misty, fresh, and alive with hundreds of bird 
songs. Bluebirds nesting in a box right out the kitchen window. Tree swallows by 
the dozen liquidly twittering to their young lined up on the electric wires. Bass 
surfacing in the pond under willows while peepers trilled. Red-and-brown house 
finches frivolously rearing a total of twelve chicks on my front porch. Sober gray 
phoebes dutifully feeding four fuzzballs in a nest over the night light on my back 
porch. Wood frogs clacking and woodcocks peeting on cold, clear spring eve- 
nings under a half moon. 

Every spring thereafter Lila and Windhover would show up to perform 
their glorious courtship. They trusted my farm and its wood duck box. strangely 
placed on a power pole in a pond, as their rightful nursery and home. More and 
more I began to identify with these small, strong, defiant falcons, flying into the 

The Farm and the Cabin 

Working on- an old farmstead part time taught me new and insightful 
lessons about Nature. It threw certain "ecological imperatives" into my lap. And 
it showed me the dramatic contrast between cabin and farm. I gradually came to 
realize that my thirty acres of old-growth forest bordered in back by wilderness 
and fronted by a remote, roadless lake doesn't need me for anything. The natural 
resources are stable, diverse, and have been in place since the last Ice Age. The 
biological laws function well here. I take very little from the land and the land 
takes very little from me. I don't try to change or domesticate my surroundings. I 
never feel "in charge" of these wildlands. since they "belong" to a larger complex 
ecosystem and not to a mere human landowner. I'm much more a spectator of 
nature here, swimming with loons and beavers, hooting and howling with owls 
and coyotes. This makes me feel a greater part of the natural ecosystem than I am 
at my farm. 

On the farm, however. I am constantly manipulating this cut-over, farmed, 
pastured, open land. And the land is manipulating me. I have planted eighteen 

Anne LaBastille 161 

hundred tree seedlings in the course of eight years, trying to make windbreaks, 
stabilize banks and ditches, provide privacy, and turn worn-out fields into wildlife 
habitat. The Scotch pines, European larch, poplars, and many bushes that provide 
food for wildlife are exotics from other areas or countries. On one hand, I feel this 
has upset the original environment. On the other, I know that both exotic and 
native species of trees make soil more stable, useful, and attractive. They also 
counteract effects of global warming. 

Still, the overall effect is to make me feel that I'm domesticating nature 
and putting my imprint on it, which distances me from that pure, exhilarating 
sensation of being part of a primeval community in the wilderness. That mystical 
sense of communion with raw Life. 

At Kestrel Crest Farm, my life is dictated by the great Imperatives of 
Green Grass, Weeds, and Fruit. These are demanding, daunting labor laws. 

The farmhouse and pond are surrounded by five acres of rolling, lush 
lawn. It was here when I came and it's going to stay. However, its care is a stern 
Imperative. I'm well aware of current ecological criticism against Americans' 
mania for green grass, against the use of chemical herbicides, fertilizers, and lawn 
services that contaminate ground water and poison birds. I know about the 
millions of gallons of gas and oil burned to run mowers and weed whackers each 
summer in the United States and the air pollution and acid rain they cause. None 
of these machines have catalytic converters, filters, or any other device to cleanse 
nitrous oxides from their exhausts. Carelessly operated mowers and weed whackers 
also kill thousands of ground-nesting birds, chicks, frogs, small snakes, and 
rodents with their whirring blades. So I do all I can to reduce the negative effects 
of mowing. 

On the positive side, mowing becomes the most wonderful way to know 
my land. Seated three feet above the ground, moving at a sensibly slow speed, the 
sky stretching limitless over my head, and the sun bronzing my skin — I consider it 
a majestic experience. Alabaster thunderheads sail by. Rainbows come and go. 
White seagulls dot the distant hayfields. The wind sweeps up from Lake 
Champlain — cool, damp, and smelling faintly of clay. My tractor, which I named 
La Tortugua (turtle in Spanish), allows me to keep my fingertips on the pulse of 
the land. 

On July evenings when the dew is light and the breeze is strong, I 
sometimes turn on its headlights and mow into the dusky twilight and eventual 
dark. That's when the lawn turns into a sparkling carpet of fireflies. Since these 
insects only live three weeks or so, the sight is a breathtaking treat — one I never 
see at the cabin. At such times, Mr. Xandor, my German shepherd, plods behind 
me doggedly wondering when he'll get his supper. It's ten o'clock and his 
mistress is still going 'round in circles on that infernal noisy machine — mesmer- 

Another Imperative is Weeds in the Gardens. What a surprise it was to 
discover that I love green plants and gardening. A revelation swept through my 

162 The Concord Saunterer 

mind, heart, and stomach the first time I watched bare soil sprouting with the 
fragile green leaves of lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, beets, dill, beans, radishes, 
corn, and spinach. The knowledge that I'd be eating fully grown garden produce 
in a few weeks — food that looked like the colored pictures on the front of seed 
packets — was awesome. The realization that I had poked tiny seeds into warm, 
moist earth, covered them, and let sun and rain nourish them into ripe, edible plant 
food ready to be picked was inspiring. And so, like Thoreau at Walden, "I came to 
love my rows, my beans. . . . They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength 
like Antaeus." 

I learned to fight weeds so as to have better plant progeny. Sometimes 
I'd weed through the hot, hazy afternoon until the long-shafted rays of the sun 
gilded every leaf. Up and down the rows I'd grub — past blue corn with a small 
fish buried beneath each stalk, alongside zinnias as colorful as a carnival, next to 
lettuce leaves as translucent as pale green emeralds. My twilight nostalgia was a 
combination of loneliness, Weltschmerz, and country contentment. 

I'd glance up at the phoebes calling in the mulberry bushes and the cedar 
waxwings lisping in the dead elms. Sometimes I'd stay out in the vegetable or 
flower gardens until it was so dark that the end of the hoe or cultivator disap- 
peared. Only then would I stop so as not to spear my bare toes. 

"This was my curious labor all summer," wrote Thoreau, "to make this 
portion of the earth's surface, which had yielded only . . . sweet wild fruits and 
pleasant flowers, produce instead this pulse" — "making the earth say beans in- 
stead of grass." (In my case, it was blue corn I wanted it to say.) 

I manage to wipe out most of the weeds to help my plants. Contrarily, the 
local wildlife destroys some of my food and flower supply. Baby brown bunnies 
sneak through the fencing to nibble crisp sweet lettuce. Coons scramble over the 
fence top and up corn stalks to rip off the juicy cobs. Tiny mice leave toothmarks 
ringing the tops of beets. Jays peck off sunflower seeds before I can salvage any. 
Colorado potato bugs munch away leaves on every potato plant. Chipmunks steal 
crocus bulbs and tulips. Deer would have gobbled everything in sight except that 
Chekika and Xandor have turned out to be the best garden protectors. Xandor 
methodically marks the fences and Chekika frequently barks boisterously. 

Henry David Thoreau, I conclude, was a lucky gardener. He reported, 
"My enemies are worms, cool days, and most of all woodchucks." 

Come autumn, the Imperative of Ripe Fruits arrives. Every time I drive 
to the farm in September or October, some crop has to be picked before it gets 
ruined. I dig potatoes, store carrots and beets in dry sand, hang pails of apples and 
pears in the basement, fill jars with honey, make jam and jelly, pile squashes in 
screened drawers, stew applesauce, and bake berry pies. Until now, I had never 
harvested my own food. What a deeply satisfying experience it is. 

I've never felt the unpredictability of Nature as keenly as I do at the farm. 
I keep hoping for a "normal" year, but there never is one. I have witnessed great 

Anne LaBastille 163 

fluctuations and unexpected violence from the weather: frequent thunderstorms 
with terrifying black squall lines and scary lightning, drought so severe that I had 
to haul dozens of buckets of water from my pond to the gardens and little trees to 
save them, wind that blew so hard the old house shuddered and thrummed as if 
about to collapse, precipitation so high that my basement filled with eighteen 
inches of water and small ditches roared like rivers. 

There may be a new and frightening reason for the volatile weather. As 
our climate warms from air pollution, as the ozone hole expands, and as CFCs 
(chlorofluorocarbons, or refrigerant gases), continue to nibble away at the ozone 
layer, the earth will experience more violent changes. Weather fronts will roar 
through with higher winds, more precipitation, and more significant ups and 
downs in barometer and temperature readings, than we experience now. It seems 

Nature holds out no guarantees to farmers, landowners, or wildlife 
around here. The agricultural land and wood lots lack the ancientness, timeless- 
ness, and built-in safeguards of old-growth forests. 

One afternoon, mowing about the barns, I saw a dead bird near the road 
by the old milk house door. I stopped to pick it up and found one of Lila and 
Windhover's fledglings. The feathers were perfectly placed, no blood, the colors 
and moustaches so pretty. Grief-stricken, I looked around for what might have 
killed it. The only explanation, finally, was that the youngster had been hovering 
too near the barns, a car drove by, or a large hawk swooped down, and the 
frightened falcon dashed itself into the wall. 

One winter brought freezing rain and crusted snow week after week. 
From my living room, I watched two starving coyotes with bushy tails wander 
across flat corn fields over stone-hard snow, repeatedly pouncing stiff-legged onto 
the surface, trying to break through. Inches below their paws was a world of 
rodents that could have fed them until spring. While wildlife cycles are common 
among many species and weather fluctuations are always expected, here in the 
Champlain Valley they seem accentuated. The balance of Nature is continually 
thrown off. 

Meanwhile, while I'm a woodswoman at heart and always will be, I do 
enjoy precious summer evenings relaxing on my farm porch. I revel in the plush 
velvet perfection of newly cut lawn atwinkle with fireflies. I sniff the large 
bouquets of old-fashioned farm flowers which I pick and place on the dining room 
table — sweet-smelling phlox, day lilies, blue delphiniums, bee balm, and yellow 
tea roses. Best of all is when I can eat a light supper from my garden: dill and 
lettuce salad, fresh corn on the cob, new potatoes, and ripe raspberries. In these 
shining contented moments, life is good. 

John Brown 

Correcting the 9{ezvspapers: thoreau and 
"A Qleafor Captain John ^rozvn " 

David G. Fuller 

John Brown and his twenty-one recruits, including two of his sons, 
fourteen white and five black men, entered the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia 
(now West Virginia), on Sunday evening, 16 October 1859, and attempted to 
incite a major slave insurrection. The next day the insurrectionists, the towns- 
people, and armed militia from surrounding towns waged battle until Brown and 
his band were forced to hole up in the federal armory's engine house. Early 
Tuesday morning, federal troops led by Robert E. Lee and J. E. B. Stuart attacked 
the engine house and arrested Brown and the remaining insurrectionists. In the 
end, ten of Brown's company were killed, including his two sons; seven were 
captured; and five escaped. Three residents of Harpers Ferry, one marine, and a 
slaveholder were killed. Although the insurrection did not result in a general slave 
uprising, as Brown had hoped, it did precipitate a state of panic in the North and 

Shortly after receiving the news that John Brown led what many newspa- 
pers claimed to be an insane and fanatical insurrection, Henry Thoreau wrote with 
a fury for over a week in his journal. 1 Beginning with the entry on 19 October 
1859, the day he learned of the insurrection, he expressed his anger at the 
newspaper reporting and the erroneous news that Brown had been killed in an 
attempt to mount an organized attack on the institution of slavery. He wrote with 
such intensity during those days and nights that he even kept a pencil and paper on 
his nightstand so that he could record his thoughts. 2 Within just three days of first 
hearing about Harpers Ferry, Thoreau wrote in his journal over ten thousand words 
about the incident and soon after composed a "Lecture on the character & actions 
of Capt. John Brown," which he delivered the evening of 30 October in the vestry 
of the First Parish meetinghouse in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts.^ 
Local abolitionists considered his giving such a lecture inadvisable, but despite 
their warnings, he went ahead with it. Now considered the first public presenta- 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

166 The Concord Saunterer 

tion in the country in support of Brown, the lecture was presented to a full house, 
many of whom, it was reported, held no sympathy for Brown. 4 

Two days later, on 1 November. Thoreau presented the lecture at Boston's 
Tremont Temple to over twenty-five hundred people. Lasting an hour and a half, 
the lecture was listened to attentively by an enthusiastic audience that interrupted 
the speech with applause on a number of occasions. 5 Not all members of the 
audience were pleased by what they heard, however. In an 8 November review of 
the lecture. The Springfield Republican wrote, "This Thoreau seems to be a 
thorough fanatic — why don't he imitate Brown and do good by rushing to the 
gallows?" On 3 November Thoreau presented the lecture at Washburn Hall in 
Worcester and later forwarded the text of his speech to James Redpath. who was 
compiling an anthology of essays about the incident, published as Echoes of 
Harper's Ferry. 6 

Cited in our time as the "most eloquent of all Thoreau' s occasional 
addresses" 7 and "one of the great public addresses in American history," 8 the 
lecture, as the title suggests, was written as a "plea" for Captain John Brown, who 
was in prison awaiting trial for his part in the Harpers Ferry raid. Thoreau pledged 
"to correct the tone and the statements of the newspapers." which, he claimed, did 
injustice to Brown's character and actions. 9 He charged that the newspaper 
editors wrote from their "easy chairs" (137), revealing their ignorance of Brown's 
character, ignoring essential details, showing a lack of regard for Brown, and 
expressing more concern with politics and with pleasing subscribers than with 
accurately covering the event or addressing Brown's cause. What made Thoreau 
indignant was that the newspapers, in his view, missed the point — they apparently 
lost sight of the inhumanity of slavery amidst political accusations, charges and 
counter charges, and characterizations of Brown as insane or misguided. Even the 
major antislavery newspapers, such as William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator 
and Horace Greeley's New-York Tribune, did not escape Thoreau' s censure. "I 
read all the newspapers I could get within a week after this event." Thoreau 
claimed in "A Plea," "and I do not remember in them a single expression of 
sympathy for these men" ( 1 22). In light of the extensive reporting and discussion 
of this raid during those first days, it is interesting — and rather surprising — to read 
Thoreau' s claim that he did not remember even one sympathetic account of 
Brown within that first week. One might expect to find, at least in the Republican 
papers, an acknowledgment of Brown's justifiable cause for the raid if not an 
outright expression of sympathy. If indeed the press withheld any sympathy, as 
Thoreau claimed, then this silence both verifies his charge and helps justify his 
strong and immediate plea for Brown as a corrective to the newspapers. 

This article identifies and examines the newspapers we know Thoreau 
read as well as those he most likely read during that week, from the day of the 
initial raid on Sunday. 16 October, through Saturday, 22 October, the day on 
which he made the claim in his journal that he read all newspaper accounts he 

David G. Fuller 167 

could get that week. While substantially confirming his claim about a general lack 
of sympathy for Brown, this study also analyzes what the newspapers did say that 
caused him to respond with such passion and intensity. It is clear from a reading 
of "A Plea" that Thoreau's primary purpose was not to vent anger with the 
newspapers, to correct their statements, to express sympathy for Brown, or to 
plead for him and his men. Instead, his purpose was to "plead" Brown's "cause," 
not to plead "for his life" (137). To be sure, most scholars generally agree that 
Thoreau composed and presented "A Plea" to argue in support of a transcendental 
Brown, his principles, and his cause — not for the real-life Brown. 10 The purpose 
of this article, however, is not to emphasize Thoreau's larger transcendental 
agenda but to offer the newspaper accounts themselves as an immediate stimulus 
for his impassioned lecture and essay. An examination of the newspaper reports 
underscores the explosive context in which Thoreau composed his lecture and 
helps account for his heightened intellectual and emotional response as well as for 
the impassioned tone of his argument. 

Thoreau's intense response is not unexpected when one considers his 
high regard for at least the idealized Brown and his low regard for newspapers. 
Thoreau's aversion to newspapers developed long before he read the reports of 
Harpers Ferry. Early in his career he complained that opinions expressed in 
newspapers were "shallow and flimsy," 11 and he continued in the years follow- 
ing — in Walden and elsewhere — to chastise newspapers for their trivia, gossip, 
and general uselessness. In his journal he indicted newspapers as "pernicious," 
"tyrannical," "froth which ever floats on the surface of society," trifling, and 
crude. In "Life without Principle" he wrote that facts reported in daily newspapers 
"appear to float in the atmosphere, insignificant as the sporules of fungi, and 
impinge on some neglected thallus, or surface of our minds, which affords a basis 
for them, and hence a parasitic growth." And he concluded, "We should wash 
ourselves clean of such news." 12 It is not surprising, then, that he would exhort 
his readers of that essay to "Read not the Times. Read the Eternities." 13 These 
criticisms can be attributed in large part to his dislike of politics and the political 
agenda of the newspapers. Nineteenth-century newspapers, particularly in the 
antebellum years, were dominated by biased politics. 14 As one commentator 
explains, a virtual absence of neutrality "precluded an objective discussion of 
other parties or other issues"; newspapers did not try to be "all things to all 
people." 15 

In view of Thoreau's disparaging remarks about newspapers, it is not 
surprising that he would proclaim that he was "not a newspaper reader." 16 But 
contrary to this claim, he did read them, referring quite regularly in his journal, 
correspondence, and essays to specific newspapers, articles, and reports of public 
events. Thoreau's acquaintance and neighbor Frank Sanborn observed that "few 
residents of Concord frequented the Post Office more punctually or read the 
newspapers (particularly the New[-]York Tribune) more eagerly than Thoreau." 17 

168 The Concord Saunterer 

At the time of Harpers Ferry, as he admitted, he did indeed read every 
newspaper he could find. During the week after the insurrection attempt, in his 19 
October journal entry and in "A Plea" itself, he identified four by name: the 
Boston Journal, The Liberator, the New-York Tribune, and the New York Herald. 
Other newspapers he likely read during that week but did not identify by name 
were the Boston Courier, Boston's The Atlas and Daily Bee, the Boston Daily 
Traveller, and the Boston Evening Transcript.^ 

The brunt of Thoreau's attack was directed at the Republican press, 
which was in varying degrees opposed to slavery. In "A Plea" he dismissed the 
Democratic, proslavery journals as "not human enough" (125) to warrant his 
indignation, and expressed his disdain for Republican editors who, "accustomed 
to look at every thing by the twilight of politics, express no admiration, nor true 
sorrow even, but call these men 'deluded fanatics/" Those editors, he chided, 
"know very well on which side their bread is buttered" (123). One would not 
expect William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator to have been the target of such 
criticism, but Thoreau singled out this antislavery journal by noting that "[e]ven 
The Liberator' called the incident a "'misguided, wild, and apparently insane . . . 
effort'" (122). It is interesting to note the general lack of coverage of Harpers 
Ferry in the 2 1 October 1 859 edition of the weekly The Liberator. The news of the 
insurrection appeared as early as Monday, 17 October, in some newspapers. Most 
papers reported on the incident for the first time in their Tuesday editions, with full 
reports appearing in the Wednesday editions. Yet The Liberator 's Friday edition 
included hardly anything about Harpers Ferry. The following week, in its 28 
October edition, The Liberator wrote, "the New York Journal of Commerce, with 
its characteristic mendacity, says that The Liberator, last week, preserved an 
ominous silence upon the Harper' s Ferry 'rebellion' !" The Liberator responded to 
this criticism and justified its lack of coverage by explaining that it had already 
reserved its columns for other matters, suggesting dubiously that there was not 
room to include a fuller account. The Liberator of 28 October did provide more 
detailed and notably sympathetic accounts of Brown than its edition a week 
earlier, referring to his "noble" purpose and soul. It still, nevertheless, maintained 
the position that the incident at Harpers Ferry was, although well intended, 
misguided and wild — hardly a sympathetic portrayal. 

Another Republican newspaper with strong antislavery sentiments was 
the New-York Tribune, a paper edited by Thoreau's friend Horace Greeley. 
Thoreau himself subscribed to the weekly — but not the daily — Tribune in the 
1850s. From 18 October through 22 October the Tribune published full accounts 
of the event, including the common dispatches, updates, excerpts from other 
papers, lists of participants, various interviews, letters, Brown's "Provisional 
Constitution," and regular editorials devoted to answering the question, "Who is 
Responsible?" But unlike The Liberator, which suggested that Brown and his 
wild, misguided group were to blame, the Tribune assigned the responsibility to 
those who supported proslavery attacks by the "Border-Ruffians" in Kansas. An 

David G. Fuller 169 

apparent exception to Thoreau' s claim that he could find no expressions of 
sympathy for Brown and his men, the Tribune called Brown a "peaceful and quiet 
citizen." But the Tribune applied that epithet to the John Brown of "before" 
Harpers Ferry and his experiences in Kansas. The 21 October edition argued that 
Brown's suffering in Kansas and encounters with the proslavery factions "in- 
spired" him to undertake his "wild adventure. " Responding to those critics who 
assigned blame to the Republican party, the newspaper strenuously objected to the 
charge and maintained that Brown was not a Republican but an independent. 
From the Tribune's perspective, the insurrection was a "mad outbreak" whose 
blame should be attributed to politics and the resulting madness of Brown. 

The Boston Journal, another Republican newspaper, published stories of 
the insurrection as early as Monday. 17 October. The Monday and Tuesday 
editions included the common Baltimore telegraph dispatches with exaggerated 
accounts of five hundred to seven hundred people participating in the attack. It is 
probable that the Boston Journal was the paper Thoreau referred to when he 
complained that a "journal which contained this pregnant news, was chiefly filled. 
in parallel columns, with the reports of the political conventions that were being 
held" (122). Both the 18 and 19 October editions included general information 
about the insurrection in one column, with the two adjacent columns featuring 
reports of political conventions. On 18 October a partial column was devoted to 
Harpers Ferry, and the next two columns included reports on a session of the 
Massachusetts legislature, journal court reports, and a report on the Sixth District 
Republican Convention. On 19 October, when many newspapers were devoting 
large sections of their pages to Harpers Ferry, the Boston Journal included a report 
entitled "Fifth Congressional District Democratic Convention and the "Opposition 
Convention' at Faneuil Hall." Provoked by what struck him as evidence of 
shamefully misguided editorial emphasis. Thoreau exclaimed in "A Plea." "[t]o 
turn from the voices and deeds of earnest men to the cackling of political 
conventions !"( 122). 

From 17 to 22 October the Boston Journal expressed a general revulsion 
for the Harpers Ferry incident. An editorial on Wednesday. 19 October, referred 
to the "futile project" as one "springing from a frenzied brain." which did not 
deserve much attention in a newspaper's columns. Following the dispatches and 
the summaries of the previous days' events, the Journal's editorial on 20 October 
took the same position as the Tribune, denouncing Brown as a "deluded fanatic" 
and the insurrection as "criminal," and countering the charge, leveled by the 
Boston Courier, that the Republican newspapers were to blame for Harpers Ferry. 
The Journal condemned the raid at Harpers Ferry as well as what it called the 
"dreaded curse of slavery." In addition, on 21 October the Journal reported that 
the Republican press, which showed no sign of sympathy or support for Brown 
and the incident, actually condemned the insurrection attempt. 

Another Republican journal Thoreau read during that week was Boston's 
The Atlas and Daily Bee. which distanced itself from the insurrection by calling 

1 70 The Concord Sa unterer 

Brown and his raid fanatical and misguided. An editorial on 21 October sounded 
almost apologetic: "We deeply regret the occurrence, as we do any act which 
should tend to disturb and weaken the public serenity." However, on that same 
day and the next, The Atlas and Daily Bee published James Redpath' s sympathetic 
accounts of Brown, "Reminiscences of the Insurrectionists." Redpath's reports 
are the sources from which Thoreau gleaned some of the biographical information 
used in his essay. These reports also demonstrate that Thoreau found, contrary to 
his claim, some expressions of sympathy for Brown in newspapers during that 
first week. Indeed, Thoreau included in "A Plea" an extended quotation from the 
21 October Atlas and Daily Bee report. In that passage Redpath described 
Brown's camp and explained that Brown did not permit profanity nor accept 
people with loose morals or without principle (114). Like Redpath, Thoreau 
compared Brown to Cromwell to extol the character of Brown. 19 But it is 
important to note that The Atlas and Daily Bee published a disclaimer on 22 
October assuming "no responsibility for, nor avow[ing] any sympathy with" 
Redpath's opinions, which Thoreau could have interpreted as that newspaper's 
lack of sympathy for Brown. No doubt contributing to this interpretation, The 
Atlas and Daily Bee declared that "the mad scheme" could be attributed more to 
the "Democratic barbarity in Kansas" than to Republicanism. The Atlas and Daily 
Bee stated unequivocally, "For ourselves, as we have said before, we deem all 
such attempts as this of Brown to liberate slaves by violence, not only mischie- 
vous and wicked, but futile and stupid." 

Two other newspapers Thoreau probably read at this time were the 
Boston Evening Transcript and the Boston Daily Traveller. On 19 October the 
latter called the incident "one of the maddest of all mad projects" and went on to 
report that "any man of common sense must have foreseen a disastrous end to such 
a movement," while on the same day the Transcript called it an "insane and 
villainous scheme" and described Brown as a "reckless character." The 19 
October Boston Traveller speculated that slavery had not "anything to do with" 
the insurrection attempt and suggested that the abolitionists "are guiltless of any 
connection with the outbreak." Instead, the Traveller suggested, "It is a wages 
conflict that is going on" that led to the incident at Harpers Ferry. For its part, the 
Transcript argued on that same day, "If the South wants slavery, let them have it; 
but let the 'institution' be confined to that part of the Union, and never receive 
special national protection." 

Although Thoreau said that Democratic journals "are not human enough 
to affect" him at all (125), he nevertheless read at least one notable Democratic 
paper, James Gordon Bennett's sensational and strongly proslavery New York 
Herald. 2 ® Bennett supported slavery for economic reasons and believed that an 
end to slavery would result in economic disaster. The Herald advocated letting 
the "seceding states go . . . and then reorganizing] the Republic under the South' s 
new constitution, leaving out the New England states." 21 Providing a detailed, 

David G. Fuller 171 

comprehensive, but notably biased proslavery account of the incidents of Harpers 
Ferry, the 19 October Herald called Brown an "abolition madman and monoma- 
niac." The raid, the Herald concluded on 20 October, was a "miserable failure." 
In spite of the Herald's strong criticism of Brown and the Harpers Ferry incident, 
and notwithstanding Thoreau's own statement that Democratic newspapers did 
not affect him at all, Thoreau read the Herald and referred to many of its lines and 
stories. At one point in "A Plea" he mentioned the Herald by name and angrily 
observed, "And the New York Herald reports the conversation [i.e., between 
Brown and his interrogators] 'verbatim ! It does not know of what undying words 
it is made the vehicle" (127). Brown's comments cited at the end of Thoreau's 
essay are, in fact, taken directly from the Heralds report on the interview of 
Brown by Senator Mason, Congressman Vallandigham of Ohio, and others. It is 
interesting to note how favorably the Herald reporter described Brown and 
recorded his testimony. For example, Brown was described as "affable," and 
quite a few detailed lines of his testimony portrayed Brown as an honest and 
sincere individual. 

Another proslavery Democratic paper Thoreau read and referred to on 
occasion was the Boston Courier, characterized by Frank Luther Mott as the most 
"lively and literary" of the Boston newspapers. 22 During the week of Harpers 
Ferry, the Courier leveled a charge against the Republican presses and the 
"hypocritical philanthropists who do no murder, only point the way" (19 October 
1859). According to the Courier, the "'Browns' of the day have received much 
encouragement from these presses." This Northern newspaper presented the most 
vehement attack on the Republican papers, condemning what it viewed as self- 
serving attempts to escape blame by suggesting that Brown was insane. On 
Saturday, 22 October, the Courier suggested that this tactic "is a monstrous sham 
. . . which the Republican presses are trying to force down the throats of their 
friends to pour into the ears of the people at large. It is a monster and an abortion." 
The editorial pointed out that these same newspapers supported Brown's trips and 
speeches around the North only months before Harpers Ferry. It also termed 
"flimsy and desperate" their attempts to depict Brown as insane after the Harpers 
Ferry raid. The Courier also complained, "Nothing but the necessity of self- 
preservation can excuse these politicians and editors for their cowardly and 
ungrateful act in now flinging him overboard" (22 October 1859). 

As these and many similar remarks indicate, the Republican and Demo- 
cratic papers did not pull any punches in their attacks upon one another. More- 
over, the issue of slavery seemed to have been largely lost or ignored, as Thoreau 
himself observed, in favor of partisan politics and personal attacks. The Liberator 
called the Journal of Commerce' 's charges "hypocritical villainy"; the New-York 
Tribune called the Journal of Commerce "impudent and unscrupulous"; and the 
Boston Journal referred to the Courier's reporting as political "imbecility" as well 
as terming it "demented" and "supercilious." 23 In an editorial on 21 October, The 

1 72 The Concord Sa unterer 

Atlas and Daily Bee said of all those critics who blamed the Republicans: "Every 
toothless crone among them is out of doors flaunting her apron and chattering to 
the four winds of heaven." It is no wonder that Thoreau felt compelled to "correct 
the tone and statements of the papers" and express sympathy for John Brown and 
especially his cause. For Thoreau the presses were guilty of slander against a 
superior man dedicated in action and thought to the elimination of slavery. The 
perceived misrepresentation of Brown, his principles, and his mission motivated 
Thoreau to write feverishly in his journal, countering and condemning the press. 

An examination of the newspaper reports he read during that first week 
largely confirms Thoreau' s claim that he found not one expression of sympathy 
for Brown and his men. Both the Republican and Democratic newspapers were 
critical of Brown and the insurrection attempt. There were a few exceptions, but 
even they do not necessarily contradict Thoreau' s general observation about a lack 
of sympathy. As was noted with Redpath's sympathetic accounts of Brown in the 
reports published in The Atlas and Daily Bee, the newspaper itself made it clear 
that it held "no sympathy with the opinions expressed" in the reports, which 
Thoreau most likely saw as a repudiation of Redpath's sentiments and an avowed 
lack of sympathy for Brown and his cause. Clearly also, the Tribune's reference to 
Brown as a "quiet and peaceful citizen" pointed to the Brown before, not after, 
Harpers Ferry. And certainly any sympathy apparent in The Liberator's temper- 
ate reference to Brown's "well-meant effort" was no doubt overshadowed for 
Thoreau by that paper's lack of coverage of the event or any other sympathetic 
mention of Brown on Friday, 21 October — a day on which other newspapers 
included elaborate and detailed accounts of Harpers Ferry. In view of these 
moderate exceptions and the preponderance of harsh commentary in the newspa- 
pers during this first week, one can understand why Thoreau would make such a 
claim. What Thoreau observed was that the newspapers were so embroiled in 
their own rhetorical exchanges and charges that they essentially neglected consid- 
ering Brown's cause.' Amidst the name calling, exaggeration, distortions, and 
erroneous arguments that filled the columns of the reports, there was not, as he 
noted, any significant support for Brown or any meaningful attempt to justify his 
actions as a response to the inhumanity of slavery. 

In his reading Thoreau encountered some antislavery newspapers that 
provided little coverage and essentially ignored the news of the insurrection and 
others that provided detailed coverage but blamed proslavery factions in Kansas 
for what they derided as Brown's "wild" adventure. The proslavery papers, as 
Thoreau no doubt expected, considered Brown a maniac and leveled various 
charges against the Republican press. Some accounts, such as those in the Boston 
Courier, blamed the Republicans; others, among them the Boston Journals, 
countered charges the Republicans were to blame. Still other sources, critical of 
Brown and essentially ignoring the issue of slavery, expressed their interest in 
maintaining the status quo and public serenity. While the newspapers collectively 

David G. Fuller 173 

expressed proslavery and antislavery sentiments, all of the accounts Thoreau read 
during that first week after Harper's Ferry conceded that Brown's insurrection 
attempt could not help resolve the slavery issue. Even a week later, in its 28 
October edition, The Liberator admitted that the slaves were so downtrodden that 
no insurrection would avail. 

The anger, fear, and confusion brought on by the raid on the federal 
arsenal at Harpers Ferry are reflected in the newspaper reports. The prospect of a 
major conflict and civil war weighed heavily on the journalists and their readers. 
After considering the hostile reaction and defensiveness in newspaper reports, 
Thoreau felt compelled to do something immediately to indict the press and 
correct misstatements. By so doing, he drew attention to Brown's moral purpose 
and to the essential issue of the enslavement of four million people — points that 
seemed lost in the newspapers themselves. 


1 The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen, 14 vols, 
bound as 2 (1906; reprint, New York: Dover. 1962). 12: 400-39. 

2 Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 

3 Some accounts indicate that the lecture was delivered at the Town Hall, but according 
to a recent study the lecture was delivered in the First Parish vestry. See Bradley P. 
Dean and Ronald Wesley Hoag, "Thoreau' s Lectures After Walden: An Annotated 
Calendar," in Studies in the American Renaissance, ed. Joel Myerson (Charlottesville: 
Univ. Press of Virginia, 1996), 312. 

4 Henry Seidel Canby, Thoreau (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1939), 390, and Harding, 
Days, 411. 

5 Dean and Hoag, "Thoreau' s Lectures After Walden" 318. 

6 With the exception of a few abridged versions of Thoreau' s lecture published in the 
newspapers, the essay published in Redpath's anthology was the first published 
version of 'A Plea." The second authorized version of the essay appeared in A Yankee 
in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers, published posthumously in 1 866. 
See Wendell Glick, "Textual Introduction: 'A Plea for Captain John Brown,'" in 
Henry David Thoreau, Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick (Princeton: Princeton Univ. 
Press, 1973), 341. 

7 Harding, Days, 417. 

8 Canby, Thoreau, 392. 

9 Henry David Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown," in Reform Papers, ed. 
Wendell Glick (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1973), 111. (Subsequent references 
are to this edition and will be documented parenthetically in the text.) 

10 Commentary on "A Plea" has focused primarily on Thoreau' s purpose, whether that 
was to defend Brown's act or simply his transcendental principles. Gilman Ostrander. 
while suggesting that Thoreau had a limited understanding of the real Brown, argues 

1 74 The Concord Sa unterer 

that he intended to create a transcendental Brown; see "Emerson, Thoreau, and John 
Brown," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 34 (March 1953): 713-26. Walter 
Harding generally agrees with this interpretation and notes that Thoreau was "more 
attracted by Brown's ideal than by his actions, by his courage than by his deeds. He 
pleaded not for Brown's life, but for his character" (Days, 418). Similarly, Michael 
Meyer concludes that "Thoreau' s transcendental perception clearly informs his cel- 
ebration of Brown as a type, an ideal, and principle"; see "Thoreau's Rescue of John 
Brown from History," in Studies in the American Renaissance, ed. Joel Myerson 
(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980), 31 1-12. Robert Albrecht maintains that Thoreau's 
"A Plea" is designed rather to convince his audience of the "righteousness of John 
Brown's principles and the act proceeding from those principles"; see "Thoreau and 
His Audience: 'A Plea for Captain John Brown,'" American Literature 32 (1961): 
393. In his "An Eccentric Kinship: Henry David Thoreau's 'A Plea for Captain John 
Brown,'" Herbert L. Carson indicates that Thoreau's essay is a "compassioned at- 
tempt to justify Brown's act"; see Southern Speech Journal 27 (Winter 1961): 152. 
Henry S. Canby argues that Thoreau's essay was not an attempt to save Brown's life or 
even to attack slavery, but to argue in defense of "violence in a good cause"; see 
Thoreau, 391 . At least one scholar suggests that Thoreau's purpose was to express his 
high regard for Brown. Len Gougeon concludes that Thoreau's lecture on 30 October 
"expresses his unqualified admiration for Brown"; see "Thoreau and Reform" in The 
Cambridge Companion to Henry David Thoreau, ed. Joel Myerson (Cambridge: 
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), 207. 

1 1 Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, ed. Carl F. 
Hovde, William L. Howarth, and Elizabeth Hall Witherell (Princeton: Princeton Univ. 
Press, 1980), 185. 

1 2 Henry David Thoreau, "Life without Principle," in Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1973), 170. 

13 "Life without Principle," 173. 

14 See Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United 
States through 250 Years, 1690 to 1940 (New York: Macmillan, 1941). 

15 Gerald J. Baldasty, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century (Madi- 
son: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 25, 29. 

16 Henry David Thoreau, "Slavery in Massachusetts," ed. Wendell Glick (Princeton: 
Princeton Univ. Press, 1973), 101. 

17 See the introduction by F. B. Sanborn in Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 2 vols. 
(Boston: The Bibliophile Society, 1909), l:49n. 

18 Although he does not cite these newspapers explicitly during this period, he had 
mentioned each previously in either his journal or correspondence. The Courier, Atlas 
and Daily Bee, and Transcript had also previously advertised or reviewed his work. 
There are a number of papers that Thoreau does not mention but might have read 
because of their politics or their sizable circulation. The New-York Times, for 
example, was a major eastern newspaper with Republican biases. Another influential 
paper he does not refer to was New York's The Evening Post, edited by the poet and 
liberal William Cullen Bryant. Having connections with Bryant and sympathies for 
the newspaper's politics, Thoreau might very well have read it at this time, although 
he doesn't mention it directly. 

David G. Fuller 175 

19 The Liberator published selections from RedpauYs "Reminiscences of the Insurrec- 
tionists"' in its 28 October 1859 edition. Thoreau's initial citations of RedpauYs 
reports, however, were recorded in his 22 October journal entry, which suggests that 
the source for this information was The Atlas and Daily Bee. 

20 The New York Herald recorded the largest circulation of the major New York 
newspapers, with an average in the 1 850s of fifty-eight thousand (compared to The 
New- York Times' s forty-two thousand and the New-York Tribune's twenty-nine thou- 
sand). See Baldasty, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century, 49. 

21 John Tebbel, The Compact History of the American Newspaper (New York: Haw- 
thorn Books, 1969), 111. 

22 Mott, American Journalism, 187. 

23 Liberator, 28 October; Tribune, 21 October; Boston Journal, 20-21 October. 


}• J 





. ■ 

Hercules and Antaeus (1470s) 
by Antonio del Pollaiuolo 

Uncaptured Monsters: 
'The Ostracizing MCusions of Walden 

Sharlene Roeder 

"I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or 
finished any labor," Thoreau writes of his neighbors. Struggling, failing — 
ignorant — "[t]hey have no friend Iolas," 1 no epic hero or benevolent divine to 
assist and enlighten them. So Thoreau descends into the hell of Concord, donning 
the cloaks of classical saviors — Achilles, Aeneus, Ulysses, and more tellingly, 
Oedipus and Orpheus. However, his power comes not from the apotheosis of 
these analogies, but from the contiguous degradation of those he allegedly seeks to 
save. He is the hero, but we, his audience, are the inanimate objects, ignoble 
insects, and marauding monsters of Greek lore. Deifying himself, degrading his 
flock, Thoreau taunts with talk of salvation. Rather than teaching us the tenets of 
transcendentalism, Walden 's classical allusions betray the author's belief that we 
cannot ascend as high as he. 

Strolling Concord, walking Ktaadn, or riding the Penobscot, Thoreau 
sees, or makes us see, figures of classical Greece. As critics from Ethel Seybold 
on have agreed, "anyone who has read Walden will be aware that he valued the 
classics most" of all his readings. 2 Greek mythology, Robert D. Richardson 
observes, is the "only mythology that Thoreau used so extensively in Walden that 
we may conclude that he was relying on it, and in some ways grounding his book 
on it," 3 though he adds that no single myth dominates any of Thoreau' s texts; he is 
not constantly Achilles, nor always Apollo. Rather than a figure or a form, 
Thoreau employs what Richardson calls "the process of myth, the process by 
which myth universalizes and generalizes personal or individual experience, 
giving it general significance and narrative shape." 4 But beyond simply extending 
his experience to his readers, Thoreau uses classical allusions in Walden to define 
himself and humanity, specifically supporting his prophetic purpose. This defini- 
tion is unique to Walden. Although many of the same Greek figures appear in 
Thoreau' s other writings from the same time frame, mythological allusions in A 

THE CONCORD SAUNTERER, N.S. Volume 5, Fall 1997 

1 78 The Concord Sa unterer 

Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. "Ktaadn," Cape Cod, and 
"Chesuncook" tend to elevate society. 

Thoreau himself argues the importance and didactic nature of his allu- 
sions in Walden. Citing the ancient texts as "the noblest recorded thoughts of 
man," he recommends the classics for teaching the young: "The student may read 
Homer and Aeschylus in the Greek without danger of dissipation or luxurious- 
ness. for it implies that he in some measure emulate their heroes" (100). Thoreau' s 
invitation to emulate the heroes is reinforced as he repeatedly compares himself to 
the epic warriors in the course of teaching others how to live as he has. But his 
example is futile, if, as he states, these "heroic books . . . will always be in a 
language dead to degenerate times" (100). 

Yet a "simple and natural" man's mere appreciation of the poet makes 
him a "true Homeric" figure, as in the rare example of the wood chopper, Alex 
Therien. "He, too, has heard of Homer," Thoreau reports, but adds later, "though 
what his writing was about he did not know." Not only has Therien "heard of 
Homer," but "he holds the book" — the Iliad — which Thoreau "must translate to 
him" (Walden, 144-45). Even though Thoreau accuses the Canadian of failing to 
understand Homer, by unwittingly following Thoreau' s teachings, accepting his 
words — in advice and translation — this visitor to the pond ascends metaphorically 
higher than any resident of Concord and can sit beside his translator. 

Following Thoreau in any manner wins brief epic praise, as with the Irish 
ice-cutters — "a hundred men of Hyperborean extraction" (Walden, 294). The 
men of the original myth live in an icy Utopia. Without war or work, they dwell 
forever with a Muse, delighting their god Apollo with their large sacrifices, as 
Perseus witnesses. 5 Thoreau' s Hyperboreans win their metaphor from both the 
cold and their worship. Partaking of the pond in a more literal manner than 
Thoreau, these men make a Valhalla, a banquet hall for heroes of another myth 

Yet these epic men do not survive long. Though this allusion may seem 
positive. Thoreau sends one to hell "through a crack in the ground down toward 
Tartarus." Misstepping at his pond, these workers devolve from mythic men to 
dying beasts: "he who was so brave before suddenly became but the ninth part of 
a man, almost gave up his animal heat, and was glad to take refuge in my house, 
and acknowledged that there was some virtue in a stove" {Walden, 295). Losing 
most of their humanity and nearly losing their "animal heat," they are driven to 
Thoreau in "refuge" and "acknowledge" the "virtue" of his hearth. Like Therien, 
they are unwitting followers and unintentionally earn their brief mythic status. 

But as critics often note, Walden follows Thoreau' s journey toward 
enlightenment. Seeking wisdom in nature, Thoreau begins his apotheosis in quest 
of divine light, praying at the hearths of the fire gods: "An old forest fence which 
had seen its best days was a great haul for me. I sacrificed it to Vulcan, for it was 
past serving the god Terminus" (249). Figuratively transcending the limits made 

Sharlene Roeder 179 

by men, Thoreau rejects Terminus, the god of boundaries, to sacrifice a fence to 
Vulcan, the most appropriate deity for Thoreau' s offerings. As a god of fire, 
Vulcan represents enlightenment, but he is also a god of the earth. Hurled from 
heaven for censuring Zeus, he resides underground as the craftsman of the gods. 
Vulcan thus represents not only knowledge and nature, but truth and creativity as 
well. Thoreau continues to pursue divine light in celebrating the dawn and its 
goddess, proclaiming himself both "a worshipper of Aurora * (88) and her son. 
Stating, that '*[a]ll poets and heroes ... are the children of Aurora" (89). Thoreau 
wins his divinity on two counts, that of writer and warrior, since he compares 
himself to the ancient heroes. 

As in this allusion to Aurora, Thoreau never openly takes the name of a 
god, but he takes on their roles and powers. Seeking to save the earth, or at least 
Hollowell Place, Thoreau is "ready to carry it on; like Atlas, to take the world on 
[his] shoulders"* — though he adds, he "never heard what compensation he re- 
ceived for that" (83). Yet Atlas's service is punishment, meriting no compensa- 
tion. Whereas other Titans are imprisoned in Tartarus having lost the war with the 
Olympians, as one of their leaders. Atlas is "condemned to bear up the heavens on 
his shoulders." 6 When temporarily relieved of the burden by Hercules in ex- 
change for fetching the apples of the Hesperides, Atlas has to be tricked into 
taking it back. So the epithet, while supporting Thoreau" s role as savior, also 
laments it. 

Similarly, when he writes of the strength he draws from his beans, he 
compares himself to another defeated warrior: "They attached me to the earth, and 
so I got strength like Antaeus" (Walden, 155). A giant born from Earth, Antaeus 
draws his strength from his mother. So long as he touches her, he is invincible. 
But his strength proves to be his weakness when Hercules lifts him off the ground 
and squeezes him to death. So Thoreau metaphorically acknowledges a vulner- 
ability and a mortality. 

This allusion, like the one to Atlas, effectively reflects the symbiotic 
relationship between Thoreau and nature, a connection inherent in transcendental- 
ism. As Atlas, Thoreau supports the earth; as Antaeus, he draws strength from it. 
Yet the later allusion embodies his self-defeatism as well. As Antaeus. Thoreau is 
at odds with himself, since he calls his hoeing of the beans a "small Herculean 
labor" (Walden, 155). In the same paragraph, he is thus both the victor and the 
vanquished. In its context in Walden. however, this juxtaposition of warring 
figures is appropriate. Thoreau is at war with himself. His stated purpose 
conflicts with his actual message: he intends to teach us. but we are incapable of 

Significantly, these allusions describe only Thoreau' s own efforts. Less 
pilgrim than prophet, he does not represent humanity. Although Thoreau con- 
tends, "If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for 
humanity rather than for myself (Walden, 49). as Stephen Railton observes, "this 

180 The Concord Saunterer 

generosity is complicated by the way throughout the opening chapters he keeps 
defining his T in opposition to 'many,' or 'most men,' or 'the mass of men.'" 7 
Yet it is as the mass that we are first defined in Walden, as Railton also notes: "By 
his third paragraph Thoreau conclusively identifies his reader, 'you who read 
these pages,' with his townsmen, 'my neighbors."' 8 So Thoreau describes our 
"outward condition or circumstances in this world" (Walden, 4), as he ascends 
above us. Railton correctly remarks that "[w]here his indictment of our delusions 
is razor-sharp, his references to himself tend to retreat into mystifications like 
baskets, bay horses, and turtle doves." 9 Similarly, he retreats to Olympus in his 
classical allusions. 

Isolated in these allusions, Thoreau lives alone with the gods. Of the 
pond beside his home, he wonders "what nymphs presided over it in the Golden 
Age" (Walden, 179). He compares it to the Castalian Fountain, one of the springs 
of Parnassus, sacred to Apollo, another god of light and reason. His cabin is also 
"fit to entertain a travelling god, and where a goddess might trail her garments" 
(Walden, 85). His home in nature is the dwelling of the Greek deities, since 
"Olympus is but the outside of the earth every where" (Walden, 85). 

When Thoreau does step down from Olympus, it is as a hero, usually a 
leader, often one of divine lineage: "Many a lusty crest-waving Hector, that 
towered a whole foot above his crowding comrades, fell before my weapon and 
rolled in the dust" (Walden, 162). Saving his beans from the "lusty crest-waving" 
weed Hector, he is invincible Achilles. Similarly, neighbor Seeley's "spectatordom" 
makes the deconstruction of the shanty "one with the removal of the gods of Troy" 
(Walden, 44). By extension, Thoreau becomes one with pious Aeneus. 

Seeing sirens in appearance and sphinxes in ignorance, Thoreau exhorts 
us to live as he does, defying the world: "Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in 
that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. 
Weather this danger and you are safe. . . . With unrelaxed nerves, with morning 
vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses" (Walden, 97). 
Thoreau recalls the hero's ten-year voyage home after the Trojan War and his 
perilous pass near two notorious monsters. His dinner is Charybdis, who con- 
sumes the sea of the straights three times a day and spews it forth again. Yet his 
advice here is for escaping the Sirens, "whose isle shone afar off white with the 
bones of unburied men," he notes in A Week. 10 The songs of these creatures 
madden men to pitch themselves against the rocks. Only Ulysses hears the song 
and escapes, "tied to the mast" as he is, at the advice of his lover, the sorceress 
Circe. The daughter of the Sun, she is best known for turning Ulysses's men into 
swine. So she seems a close kin of Thoreau. The source of the same advice and 
similar spells, he is our treacherous lover, both assisting and assaulting us. 

Echoing the dictate of the Delphic oracle, Thoreau further implores us to 
imitate ill-fated Oedipus: "If you would learn to speak all tongues and conform to 
the customs of all nations, if you would travel farther than all travellers, be 

Sharlene Roeder 181 

naturalized in all climes, and cause the Sphinx to dash her head against a stone, 
even obey the precept of the old philosopher, and Explore thyself (Walden, 322). 
Indicative of his probing intelligence, Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, 
driving the monster to suicide. Yet Oedipus is a tragic hero, better known for his 
ignorance and the resulting incest. As myopic as the self-blinded king of Thebes, 
Thoreau never pursues this last allusion to note that Oedipus is as destructive to 
the town as the Sphinx from which he liberated it — and as doomed. 

In traveling the darkness of the village, though, Thoreau is not Oedipus, 
but Orpheus. He is not leading a town but fleeing a hell, as he quotes Apollonius 
of Rhodes, "ioudly singing the praises of the gods to his lyre, drowning] the 
voices of the Sirens, and [keeping] out of danger'" (Walden, 169). Around him 
the town seems to court its own infernal existence. The farmer ''sacrifices not to 
Ceres and the Terrestrial Jove, but to the infernal Plutus rather" (Walden, 165). 
Making no offerings to the goddess of harvests or the god of gods, but to Plutus. 
the god of wealth, the people sell off earth and heaven. 

Although his claims often seem mock-heroic, designed to cast his efforts 
as the antithesis of the heroes', his allusions to the townspeople more often mock 
them as monsters. Whereas Thoreau is consistently figured as divine, his neigh- 
bors are portrayed as not even human. They are incapable of heroic acts in a world 
in which weeds wear the names of warriors. As Thoreau walks their streets, he 
turns these idle men to stone maidens: "I hardly ever failed, when I rambled 
through the village, to see a row of such worthies, either sitting on a ladder 
sunning themselves ... or else leaning against a barn with their hands in their 
pockets, like caryatides, as if to prop it up" (Walden, 168). Supporting stables, not 
temples, these men are made into the effeminate pillars of Greek porticos. 

By comparing the men to inert women. Thoreau' s attack is two pronged, 
as when he strips the farmer Flint of both humanity and masculinity in a single 
simile. For ravaging the land on which he imposed his name, Flint is given 
"fingers grown into crooked and horny talons from the long habit of grasping 
harpy-like" (Walden, 195). He is allied to the half- women, half-bird beasts who 
assault the Argonauts and Aeneus and defile everything they touch. Since all 
Thoreau' s monsters are female, society is both ostracized and emasculated in 
these economic epithets. 

But Thoreau' s attack transcends Concord. He recalls two Greek genesis 
stories in order to remind us of our lowly origins: "It is said that Deucalion and 
Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them. ... So much 
for blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing stones over their heads 
behind them, and not seeing where they fell" (Walden, 5-6). He laments the "blind 
obedience" of the couple, who sought to restore the human race after the Greek 
Deluge. Following Themis' s riddled command, they cast their ancestor's bones — 
earth's stones — over their shoulders, making men and women, and as Thoreau 
adds with a Biblical twist, "not seeing where they fell." Thoreau cites this myth to 

182 The Concord Saunterer 

support his claim that "men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is 
soon ploughed into the soil for compost" (Walden. 5), implying the futility of 
resurrecting us at all. 

But humanity falls farther under Thoreau' s hand. He rails against our 
lives, how "we live meanly, like ants: though the fable tells us that we were long 
ago changed into men" (Walden, 91). As he explains in A Week, "According to 
fable, when the island of Aegina was depopulated by sickness, at the instance of 
Aeacus. Jupiter turned the ants into men." Interprets Thoreau, "that is, as some 
think, he made men of the inhabitants who lived meanly like ants" (58). In 
Walden, he questions if Zeus makes much improvement when he raises Aeacus' s 

Thoreau again summons this allusion in describing the war of his wood- 
pile. Inverting the same fable, he elevates nature to degrade humanity. He returns 
the virtues of Homer's Myrmidons to the ants, seeing a diminutive "Achilles, who 
had nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his 
Patroclus" {Walden, 229). These insects wage a war that belittles in both size and 
provocation not only the famous battle fought in Concord, but all other battles 
waged "in the history of America" (Walden, 230). Thoreau chides Concord for its 
two casualties of 1 775 and its economic motivations. Of the ants he writes, "There 
was not one hireling there. ... it was a principle they fought for . . . not to avoid a 
three penny tax on their tea" (Walden, 230). 

Rarely do Thoreau's neighbors surmount the degrading epithets and 
dehumanizing analogies, and then only in a tenuous relationship to the divine: "I 
fear that we are such gods or demigods only as fauns and satyrs, the divine allied 
to beasts, the creatures of appetite, and that, to some extent, our very life is our 
disgrace" (Walden. 220). Here, as Thoreau elevates humanity to its highest 
mythical standing in Walden, he condescends to join us. This is one of the few 
allusions in which he employs the first person plural pronoun. Although allegedly 
encouraged by the presumably "unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life" 
(Walden, 90), Thoreau is "no friend Iolas." Bearing the light of knowledge from 
the heavens in his devotion to the earth, he only meets us halfway, descending to 
join us in the woods on cloven hooves. 

Yet only in Walden do these allusions leave us so unenlightened. In A 
Week, as Stephen Adams and Donald Ross note, myth is "a way of discovering (or 
creating) significance in events from years ago, as Thoreau 're-vises' (sees again 
in a new light) his experience for meanings it did not at first reveal." 11 In this 
earlier work, this new light shines on humanity, as Thoreau promises us "greater 
men than Homer" (A Week, 8). Over three hundred allusions and seventy-three 
classical characters bring us into "the dazzling halls of Aurora, into which poets 
have had but a partial glance over the eastern hills. — drifting amid the saffron- 
colored clouds, and playing with the rosy fingers of the Dawn, in the very path of 
the Sun's chariot" (A Week, 189). 

Sharlene Roeder jg3 

Although seemingly excessive and superficial, Thoreau's use of allusion 
is conscientious and applied largely in his later revision in response to a newfound 
purpose. Adams and Ross note, "In revising the Week, he increases the number of 
classical allusions, but he also reveals a new seriousness toward myth through 
theoretical statements and by introducing his own invented myths." 12 A Week 
becomes Thoreau's "own quest myth, his search for a goal that he identified as 
God and heaven." 13 The uplifting though ornate classical allusions help redirect a 
simple travel log into this archetypal journey. Thoreau employs some of the same 
classical imagery of Walden differently in A Week, since this is a work of personal 
exploration, not one of prophetic explanation. 

However, his plan for Walden is alluded to in his theoretical statements 
in A Week. Thoreau repeatedly justifies using myth in his narratives, insisting that 
"[s]o far from being false or fabulous in the common sense, it contains only 
enduring and essential truth" (A Week, 60). He goes even further to stress the 
veracity inherent in the most fantastic stories: 

The fable which is naturally and truly composed, so as to satisfy the imagination, 
ere it addresses the understanding, beautiful though strange as a wild flower, is to 
the wise man an apothegm, and admits of his most generous interpretation. 
When we read that Bacchus made the Tyrrhenian mariners mad, so that they leapt 
into the sea, mistaking it for a meadow full of flowers, and so became dolphins, 
we are not concerned about the historical truth of this, but rather a higher poetical 
truth. (A Week, 58) 

The same can be said for Thoreau's Walden creations. His metamorpho- 
ses are metaphorical of his "higher poetical truth." In A Week, he acknowledges 
but does not yet exploit the malleability of myths, "the readiness with which they 
may be made to express a variety of truths" (61). However, in Walden his 
allusions express the alleged truths of our weakness and his strength. In what 
Richardson calls a process of myth-linking, "a sort of dialectic that proceeds from 
fact to myth, and thence on to a greater fact," 14 Thoreau employs his classical 
imagery to remake, not simply wake, his neighbors, and by extension his readers. 
The "saffron-colored clouds" are culled and "the rosy fingers of the Dawn" 
curbed, his prose imbedded with fewer flowers than thorns. His use of allusion, 
like his purpose, is concentrated, controlled and didactic. We feel what he 
confesses to H.G.O. Blake about his neighbors just before sending the manuscript 
to the publisher: "Their humanity affects me as simply monstrous." 15 

Yet in another contemporary piece, "Ktaadn," Thoreau rides the rapids 
of the Penobscot with George McCauslin and Thomas Fowler "with a hundred as 
narrow escapes as ever the Argo had in passing through the Symplegades." 16 His 
words recall Jason and the Argonauts' passage between the Clashing Islands. As 
Richardson observes, "This technique of dignifying the local and parochial by 

184 The Concord Saunterer 

means of epic association — which sets the stage for heroic association — puts the 
reader on notice that, since Thoreau's river is made out to be the equal of the great 
and famous rivers, we may expect its hero to be placed in the company of great 
and famous heroes." 17 

Significantly, Thoreau celebrates not only himself on the river, but his 
companions as well. Only in walking on Ktaadn, which is "like a short highway, 
where a demi-god might be let down to take a turn or two in an afternoon, to settle 
his dinner" (Maine Woods, 45), does he again ascend alone. Here he is reminded 
of "the creations of the old epic and dramatic poets, of Atlas, Vulcan, the Cyclops, 
and Prometheus. Such was Caucasus and the rock where Prometheus was bound. 
Aeschylus had no doubt visited such scenery as this. It was vast, Titanic, and such 
as man never inhabits" (Maine Woods, 64). Thoreau is less the poet Aeschylus, 
walking in his footsteps, than his subject, the tortured Titan Prometheus, bound at 
Caucasus by Zeus for bringing light to mankind: "Some part of the beholder, even 
some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he 
ascends" (Maine Woods, 64). Though utilizing the third person pronoun, Thoreau 
is the beholder; he loses "some vital part . . . through the loose grating of his ribs," 
as Prometheus loses his liver to the vultures. Like Atlas and Antaeus in Walden, 
Prometheus represents a defeated divinity, one weary of his burden. Here, as in 
Walden, we are incapable of ascending as high as Thoreau, unable to imagine his 
solitude: "He is more lone than you can imagine" (Maine Woods, 64). 

Although this passage prepares us for our abandonment in Walden, most 
of the classical references in "Ktaadn" are scattered across distant pages, mount- 
ing little cumulative effect. Moreover, because these allusions are not directed to 
a didactic end, they lead critics to see the mountain more than the man. Citing the 
changing, jewel-like trout, which lead Thoreau to "understand better ... the truth 
of mythology, the fables of Proteus, and all those beautiful sea-monsters" (Maine 
Woods, 54), Richardson sees Thoreau using myth to express "not history or 
biography but nature itself." 18 The allusions of "Ktaadn" are much more subtle 
than those of Walden and do not collectively disparage humanity. 

Similarly, in Cape Cod Thoreau never mounts much of an epic assault, 
leaving allusions unexplored as simple adornment. For example, the Greek sea 
gods are invoked in an analysis of algae, "a singularly marine and fabulous 
product, a fit invention for Neptune to adorn his car with, or a freak of Proteus." 19 
In much the same way, Thoreau's classical citations in Cape Cod, reproduced in 
Greek, function as acoustics, as Thoreau himself concedes: "I put in a little Greek 
now and then, partly because it sounds so much like the ocean" (Cape Cod, 51). 

And the shore, like its seaweed, is celebrated more than the people. 
Cape Cod itself is taunted by breakers that look "like droves of a thousand wild 
horses of Neptune" (45). This shore needs a lighthouse keeper with "more eyes 
than Argus" (135), the hundred-eyed monster. Yet the inhabitants, whose "ordi- 
nary trips would cast the Argonautic expedition into the shade" (110), go without 

Sharlene Roeder 185 

many other epithets. Adams and Ross's search for "a significant mythical figure" 
in Cape Cod is disappointing, leading only to the Wellfleet oyster man, a "sober 
Silenus" (71). This satyr and tutor, unlike the one of Walden, "never approaches 
the spiritual status ... of Alex Therein [sic] in Walden." 20 Citing Thoreau's 
encounter with the "voracious beach" that "[t]he ancients would have represented 
... as a sea monster with open jaws, more terrible than Scylla and Charybdis" 
(Cape Cod, 195), they justly conclude that "the reference only emphasizes the 
absence of serious mythology in this modern book." 21 

However, this absence is not surprising. As in Walden. Thoreau's 
purpose shapes his allusions. Primarily a travel book. Cape Cod was not intended 
to elevate or awaken in the manner of Walden. As critics note, "it differs from 
Walden mainly because Thoreau intended it as a conventional and popular travel 
book, albeit more challenging and sophisticated than most." 22 

Another contemporary Thoreauvian travel piece, A Yankee in Canada is 
nearly bereft of classical allusion. Though haunting the landscapes of A Week, 
"Ktaadn," and Cape Cod, the Greeks, "with all their wood and river gods," are 
silenced among the French Canadians, who are judged "not so qualified to name 
the natural features of a country." 23 Only Thebes is cited in a comparison with 
Quebec and then only to ridicule the latter: "if seven champions were enough 
against [Thebes], one would be enough against Quebec, though he bore for all 
armor and device only an umbrella and a bundle.** 24 This lack of allusion betrays 
an inconsistency in Thoreau's use of classical allusion throughout his works, 
suggesting a conscious manipulation of these references. 

When Thoreau does elect to evoke epic imagery outside of Walden. he is 
more apt to elevate than denigrate men, though sometimes seeming only to 
celebrate himself in effigy. In the later "Chesuncook." for example, his sparse yet 
strained classical references surround Ansell Smith. A "pioneer** making his 
home in the woods, Smith is akin to Thoreau's Walden persona, deified by subtle 
allusion. His harbor is "such a one ... as the Argo might have been launched in," 
while the walls of his home are "successive bulging cheeks gradually lessening 
upwards and tuned to each other with the axe. like Pandean pipes." So the man 
might be the hero Jason or the satyr Pan. Thoreau adds about the walls, "Probably 
the musical forest-gods had not yet cast them aside" (Maine Woods. 124-25). as 
indeed Smith had not. 

Nearby, the man's blacksmith shop reminds Thoreau "how primitive and 
honorable a trade was Vulcan's." Having never heard of "any carpenter or tailor 
among the gods," Thoreau suggests that such iron-workers as Smith and Vulcan 
"preceded these and every other mechanic at Chesuncook as well as on Olympus"" 
(Maine Woods. 1 26). Linking the pioneers' land with that of the Greek divinities. 
Thoreau has "no doubt that they lived pretty much the same sort of life in the 
Homeric age. ... In the days of Achilles, even, they delighted in big barns, and 
perchance in pressed hay, and he who possessed the most valuable team was the 

186 The Concord Saunterer 

best fellow" {Maine Woods, 128). Though neither similes nor epithets, these 
allusions make Ansell Smith's world epic. 

The only other mythological allusions in "Chesuncook" can be applied 
more directly to Thoreau, reminiscent of his carefully crafted ascension in Walden. 
Thoreau wonders if Smith, like Admetus, the king who won the poet-god Apollo 
as his herdsman, "has yet got a poet to look after the cattle," but suggests this 
position to someone who "love[s] to write verses and go a-gunning" (Maine 
Woods, 129), implicitly refusing the position for himself with the latter qualifica- 
tion. As Seybold notes of Thoreau' s journal, "The story of Apollo and Admetus 
was his favorite; he referred to it innumerable times; it illustrated his own tragedy 
in being forced to serve the god of business." 25 

Although usually seen as the god of light, reason, medicine and proph- 
ecy, Apollo is also an archer, easily insulted and quick to curse. The Iliad opens 
on a plague brought by Apollo when the Greeks would not heed his priest, 
Chryses. Similarly, Thoreau takes aim at us in Walden. Feeling himself degraded 
by the demands of society, Thoreau taunts us with his own enlightenment when he 
appoints himself our prophet. Perhaps perceiving himself as persecuted — his own 
cursed Cassandra, doomed never to be believed by so materialistic a culture — 
Thoreau offers us our salvation only to set it just beyond our reach. 

Sherman Paul aptly calls Walden a "fable of renewal," while Richardson 
appropriately subtitles it "Metamorphoses in Concord." 26 Both apply. Whether 
author or persona, sincere or ironic, Thoreau achieves the same effect. Although 
expounding the tenets of transcendentalism, Thoreau, in his artfully marshaled 
allusions, attempts to exclude humanity from the divine he preaches we seek. A 
monster himself, less Chanticleer than Circe, he curses, not crows — and his aid 
comes at a high cost, the loss of our humanity. 

Yet, as if Walden were another travel book — as though the way were the 
same as in A Week, The Maine Woods, or Cape Cod — we struggle to navigate in 
Thoreau' s wake on a journey he deems us incapable of taking. We follow this 
scornful prophet despite his warning of our failure — our hope also inherent in his 
allusions. For though Thoreau ascends above us, he climbs only as high as 
Olympus. He chooses no ethereal, omnipotent beings among which to escape us, 
but the most human and vulnerable of pantheons, where the greatest of gods fall to 
their heirs. Including himself among the contentious brood of Zeus, Thoreau may 
try to deny us our place there, but no god in that court wins every battle. 

Inherent in the conception of Thoreau' s chosen universe is an affinity 
between mortal and god. In Greek statuary, kouros figures — nudes of athletes and 
warriors — were mistakenly called "Apollos" since later centuries could not differ- 
entiate man from god. Even in making us monsters, Thoreau raises us closer to 
him, since classical beasts like the Harpies, Scylla and Charybdis are all divinely 

Whether intended or not, Thoreau' s metaphorical rejection of his audi- 
ence invites our pursuit of him. We defy him to follow him, yet follow him in 

Sharlene Roeder 187 

defying him. Embracing tenets we are told we cannot hold, we deny his divine 
authority, just as the Greek gods did before us, dethroning their fathers. We wage 
a war with the Titan Thoreau, taking from him what he sought in his allusions: 


1 Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, ed. J. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 
1 97 1 ), 4. (Subsequent references to Walden will be documented parenthetically in the 

2 Ethel Seybold, Thoreau: The Quest and the Classics (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 
1951), 10. 

3 Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance 
(Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1978), 128. 

4 Richardson, Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance, 1 17. 

5 Mark P.O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology (New York: 
Longman, 1985), 372. 

6 Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch 's Mythology (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 5. 

7 Stephen Railton, Authorship and Audience: Literary Performance in the American 
Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991), 52. 

8 Railton, Authorship and Audience, 5 1 . 

9 Railton, Authorship and Audience, 66. 

10 Henry D. Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, ed. Carl F. Hovde 
et al (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980), 58-59. (Subsequent references to A 
Week will be documented parenthetically in the text.) 

1 1 Stephen Adams and Donald Ross, Jr., Revising Mythologies: The Composition of 
Thoreau 's Major Works (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1988), 8. 

12 Adams and Ross, Revising Mythologies, 78. 

1 3 Adams and Ross, Revising Mythologies, 77. 

14 Richardson, Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance, 135. 

15 Railton, Authorship and Audience, 55. 

1 6 Henry D. Thoreau, The Maine Woods, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer (Princeton: Princeton 
Univ. Press, 1972), 32. (Subsequent references to The Maine Woods will be 
documented parenthetically in the text.) 

17 Richardson, Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance, 92. 

18 Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind (Berkeley: Univ. of 
California Press, 1986), 231. 

19 Henry D. Thoreau, Cape Cod, ed. Joseph J. Moldenhauer (Princeton: Univ. Press, 
1988), 52. (Subsequent references to Cape Cod will be documented parenthetically in 
the text.) 

20 Adams and Ross, Revising Mythologies, 133. 

21 Adams and Ross, Revising Mythologies, 132. 

22 Adams and Ross, Revising Mythologies, 128. 

23 Henry D. Thoreau, Excursions, vol. 9 of The Writings of Henry David Thoreau 
(Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1893), 69. 

188 The Concord Saunterer 

24 Thoreau, Excursions. 92. 

25 Seybold. Thoreau: The Quest and the Classics. 59. 

26 Richardson, Myth and Literature in the American Renaissance. 135-36. Richardson 
quotes Sherman Paul. The Shores of America (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1958). 

Notes on Contributors 

Edmund James Banfield was born in England in 1852 and migrated to Australia 
at the age of two-and-a-half with his parents, who settled in the Victorian gold- 
mining town of Ararat. Edmund became a newspaper journalist, eventually 
moving to Townsville. On a trip to England in 1884 to have a troublesome eye 
removed and a glass one fitted, he met Bertha Golding, who later came to 
Townsville to marry him and then lived with him on Dunk Island from 1897 till 
his death in 1923. Besides the four major books mentioned in the articles, 
Banfield published four earlier tourist guidebooks about North Queensland. On 
the island he also wrote newspaper columns for the North Queensland Register, 
one under the pen name "Rob Krusoe" and another called "Rural Homilies." 

Ronald A. Bosco, Distinguished Service Professor of English and American 
Literature at the University at Albany, State University of New York, has been an 
editor of the Emerson Papers at the Houghton Library of Harvard University since 
1977. With Joel Myerson, he is presently editing Emerson's later lectures (1843- 
1867) for publication by the University of Georgia Press in 1999. He also serves 
on the Thoreau Society's Advisory Board and Collections Committee. 

Frank N. Egerton is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin — 
Parkside. He has published numerous articles on the history of ecology and on 
American environmental history. He is just finishing a biography of Hewett C. 
Watson, an English evolutionist and phytogeographer whose works were used by 
Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species and in later works. 

David G. Fuller is Professor of English and Vice President and Academic Dean at 
Northland College, a four-year environmental liberal arts college in Ashland, 
Wisconsin. A member of the Thoreau Society and past chair of its Membership 
Development Committee, he has published articles on Thoreau in the Thoreau 
Society Bulletin and the Modern Language Association's Approaches to Teaching 
Thoreau 's Walden and Other Works. 

Henrik Gustafsson is working on a Ph.D. in Literature at the University of 
Gothenburg (Sweden), with a dissertation on the pastorals of eighteenth-century 
Swedish poet and musician Carl Michael Bellman. He wrote his Master's paper 
on Thoreau's "A Winter Walk" (1996). His essay on Ezra Pound's translation of 
Propertius is published in Fenix. Tidskrift for Humanism 12:3-4(1996), 168-202. 

190 The Concord Saunterer 

J. Parker Huber is author of The Wildest Country: A Guide to Thoreau's Maine 
(1981), "John Muir's Menu" {Sierra, November/December 1994), "John Muir 
and Thoreau's Maine" {The Concord Saunterer, Fall 1995); editor of the annual 
journal Writing Nature; and host of an annual retreat of nature writers since 1986. 
He is a psychotherapist, living in Brattleboro, Vermont. 

Anne LaBastille is a professional ecologist and internationally recognized advo- 
cate of wildlife and wildland conservation whose awards include a Conservation- 
ist of the Year Gold Medal from the World Wildlife Fund and the highest award 
from the Outdoor Writers of America. The author of seven trade books, Dr. 
LaBastille was a commissioner of New York State's Adirondack Park Agency for 
seventeen years. She lives in a log cabin that she built at the edge of wilderness in 
the Adirondack Mountains and travels frequently for research and lectures. 

David Lyttle is a professor emeritus in the English department at Syracuse 
University. He is the author of essays, in various learned journals, on Jonathan 
Edwards, Charles Brockden Brown, Poe, Hawthorne, and Thoreau; of a book 
entitled Studies in Religion in Early American Literature (1983); and of two books 
of poetry. He races sailboats on the St. Lawrence River during the summer, and he, 
his wife, and their dog travel to warm places in their motor home during the winter. 

Madeleine Minson is working on a doctoral dissertation about Thoreau's opti- 
mism and teaches English at University College London. She is also teaching part 
time at South Bank University in London, and her book reviews have appeared in 
the Times Literary Supplement and Journal of American Studies. 

James Porter, Australian author of several young adult novels on nature themes, 
including The Swiftlet Isles ( 1 977), Hapkas Girls { 1 980), Long White Cloud { 1 989), 
The Edge of the Rainforest ( 1 99 1 ), and Piya { 1 99 1 ), has also edited, with introduc- 
tion, Beachcomber 's Paradise { 1 983) and Further Confessions of the Beachcomber 
(1983), two volumes of selections from the nature writings of Edmund J. Banfield 
(1852-1923), an early Thoreau disciple in Australia. He is currently working on a 
personal memoir (with a strong Thoreauvian slant) titled Isle of Springs — about his 
own years on Bedarra Island, not far from Banfield' s Dunk Island. 

Sharlene Roeder is the author of "The Fall on High-Church Down in Jane 
Austen's Sense and Sensibility'" {Persuasions, 1990). She coauthored "Under- 
standing Nonverbal Communication" {Dialogue, 1990) and "Stigmatizing Arti- 
facts and Their Effect on Personal Space" {Psychological Reports, 1989). She 
wrote "Uncaptured Monsters" in 1990, but only submitted it in 1996 at the 
enduring encouragement of Dr. Barbara Murray. Ms. Roeder has taught in both 
the English and the Philosophy departments at the University of Central Florida 
and is currently completing her first novel. 

Notes on Contributors 191 

Laura Dassow Walls is Associate Professor of English at Lafayette College in 
Easton, Pennsylvania. She has published several articles on Thoreau, Alexander 
von Humboldt, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and is the author of Seeing New 
Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science (1995). 
Currently she is working on a book on Emerson and metaphors of science. 

Presidents of The Thoreau Society* 

Raymond Adams, 1941-1955 

Herbert F. West, 1955-1956 

Howard Zahniser, 1956-1957 

Edwin Way Teale, 1957-1958 

J. Lyndon Shanley, 1958-1959 

PaulOehser, 1959-1960 

Carl Bode, 1960-1961 

Lewis Leary, 1961-1962 

T. L. Bailey, 1962-1963 

Walter Harding, 1963-1964 

Roland Robbins, 1964-1965 

Gladys Hosmer, 1965-1966 

G. Russell Ready, 1966-1967 

Reginald L. Cook, 1967-1968 

Henry Beetle Hough, 1968-1969 

No President, 1969-1970 

Albert Bussewitz, 1970-1971 

Leonard Kleinfeld, 1971-1972 

Frederick McGill, Jr., 1972-1973 

Herbert Uhlig, 1973-1974 

William L. Howarth, 1974-1975 

Eugene A. Walker, 1975-1976 

W. Stephen Thomas, 1976-1977 

Paul O. Williams, 1977-1978 

Wendell Glick, 1978-1979 

Dana McLean Greeley, 1979-1980 

Anne Root McGrath, 1980-1981 

JohnMcAleer, 1981-1982 

AnnZwinger, 1982-1984 

Frederick Wagner, 1984-1986 

Michael Meyer, 1986-1988 
Thomas Blanding, 1988-1990 
Edmund Schofield, 1990-1992 

Joel Myerson, 1992-1996 
Elizabeth H. Witherell, 1996- 

r Term of office begins in July. 

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Volume 5: 1852-1853 

Patrick F. O'Connell, 

From 1837 to 1861 Thoreau kept a 
journal that began as a conventional 
record of ideas, grew into a writer's 
notebook, and eventually became the 
principal imaginative work of his career. 
The source of much of his published 
writing, the Journal is also a record of 
both his interior life and his monumen- 
tal studies of the natural history of his 
native Concord, Massachusetts. 

Covering an annual cycle from 
spring 1852 to late winter 1853, Journal 
5 finds Thoreau intensely concentrating 
on detailed observations of natural phe- 
nomena and on "the mysterious relation 
between myself & these things" that he 
always strove to understand. 

Increasingly, the Journal attempts to 
balance a new-found scientific profes- 
sionalism and the accurate recording of 
phenological data with a firmly rooted 
belief in the spiritual correspondences 
that Nature reveals. 

In contrast to earlier editions, the 
Princeton Edition reproduces the Journal 
in its original and complete form, in a 
reading text that is free of editorial 
interpolations but keyed to a compre- 
hensive scholarly apparatus. 

More than 80 illustrations 

The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau 

Editor-in-Chief, Elizabeth Hall Witherell 

General Editor for the Journal, Robert Sattelmeyer 

Committee on Scholarly Editions 

Cloth $65.00 ISBN 0-691-06536-5 



You are invited to join 

The Ralph Waldo 
Emerson Society 

Membership brings you: 

• Emerson Society Papers, our semi-annual newsletter, with articles, reviews, annual 
Emerson bibliography, and news of events 

• Discounts on books and subscriptions 

• Annual meeting and panels at the American Literature Association Conference 

• A program each July in Concord. Massachusetts 

• Opportunities to obtain Society shins 

• Satisfaction of helping promote Emerson scholarship and appreciation of a major 
American writer throughout the world. 

Join members in 10 countries. Annual dues (calendar-year) are only S 10 (U.S. ). Please 
send check, payable to "The Emerson Society." to Wesley T. Mott. Emerson Society 
Secretary. Dept. of Humanities & Arts. Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Worcester. MA 
01609; tel. 508-831-5441. 

Our events make history. 

Concord s Splendid O 
specializes in caterin 
very special events 
at special locations. 

Concord s Colonial Inn 
itself offers charmin 
guest and meeting 
rooms, superb 
restaurants and 

A rOO'shome. 
A 19th Century 
estate. An 
historical site. 
Even a modern 
corporate office. 

Off-premise catering by Concords Colonial Ii 
4S Monument Square. Concord. N1A 01 "42 
Phone (9"8) 3-1-2908 ? " -217 

i' Overlooking historically 
rich Monument Square 
stands one of Concord's 
most enduring landmarks, 
The Colonial Inn. « 

'« Originally built in 1716 as 
the home of one of Concord's 
first settlers, the site became 
the home of several families, 
including that of Henry David 
Thoreau. before becoming a 
hotel in 1889. '« 


The most published author in the Adirondacks 
invites you to read more of her books. 

NEW! WOODSWOMAN III. 1997. ISBN 0-9632846-1-4 $ 15.00 
In her third decade at the log cabin she built near wilderness, 
Anne and her dogs encounter a perilous tornado, new 
environmental controversies, joys of guiding, and the 
challenge of being an older woodswoman. 

BEYOND BLACK BEAR LAKE. 1987. ISBN 0-393-305902 $ 10.95 
Sequel to Woodswoman. The author builds another writing 
retreat fashioned after Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond beside 
a remote Adirondack wilderness lake. 

WOODSWOMAN. 1 976. ISBN 0-1 4-01 5334-9 $ 1 2.95 

As a young ecologist living alone in her log cabin next to 
Adirondack wilderness, Anne records adventures, makes 
wildlife friends, and begins her independent writing career. 

MAMA POC. 1990. ISBN 0-393-02830-5 $ 10.95 

Anne's gripping account of saving a species from extinction 
(almost) in backwoods Guatemala among Maya Indians. 

WOMEN AND WILDERNESS. 1980. ISBN 0-87156-828-4 $ 14.00 
Anne profiles 1 5 other adventurous women whose lives and 
work center on the outdoors, from Alaska to Georgia. 


1992. ISBN 0-9632846-0-6 

A sensitive selection of nature essays, short stories, poetry, 

and color photos which sing with beauty. Mainly Adirondacks. 

Out of print, 1998. 

Please send me the book(s) I have checked. I enclose a check or money order. No 
credit cards. [Kindly add $3.00 to ship and handle first book; $1 .75 each additional 
book. Remember, if state resident, N.Y.S. sales tax of 8%.] 






Thoreau / McCurdy Note Cards 

Published in association with the Thoreau 
Society's Shop at Walden Pond, these popular 
cards combine six well-known Thoreau quotes 
with six wood engravings and drawings by the 

noted book illustrator Michael McCurdy. 

Available for $18 (postpaid) per 12 cards (two 

of each design), with envelopes. 


66 Lake Buel Road 

Great Barrington, MA 01230-1450 


Preview the cards at 




A fresh look at Thoreau's classic. 
Bill McKibben— author of The End 
of Nature and The Age of Missing 
Information— illuminates its literary, 
philosophical, and environmental 
lessons for students at the cusp of 
a new millennium. 

"Bill McKibben gives us Thoreau's 
Walden as the gospel of the present 
moment. . . . Read this book." 


0-8070-142 3-0 S9.00 PAPERBACK 




professor of English at Wartburg College and editor of Approaches to 
Teaching Thoreau's Walden and other Works (MLA). 


For an exam copy and Teacher's Guide visit our website at, or 

write to us on school letterhead. Please include check or money order for $5.00. 

Beacon Press 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 

The Resource Teachers 
Have Been Waiting For! 

From Crimprint Publishing of California, MD 


A Teachers ' Guide to Transcendentalism 

by Michael F. Crim 
Teacher of American Literature 

■ For High School and College Instructors 

■ For Standard-Level English, College-Bound English, 
Advanced Placement English, and Social Studies 
High School Students 

■ For College Students of American Literature to 1860 

■ For College Students of American History to 1860 

Written and Designed by a Veteran American 
Literature Teacher for Classroom Teachers! 
The Teacher's Guide to Transcendentalism Includes: 

♦ 100 pages of self-contained articles, lesson and unit 
plans for teachers, and handouts for students! 

♦ Printed on high-quality, letter-sized paper; three-hole 
punched, ready to use and re-use! 

♦ Special section of sources and resources for teachers, 
including what's available on-line! 

Cost: $25, plus $4 postage and handling 
To order, send check or money order to Michael 
E Crim, 23250 Laurel Hill Drive, California, MD 
20619; or call 301-863-0249. 

photography by 

Bonnie McGrath 

Photos of Walden Pond and Historic Concord. Call / write for catalog. Black and 
white or color catalog available — color catalog $1 deductible from first order. For 
info call (800) 583-5791 , or write Bonnie McGrath, 7 Adams St., Acton MA 01720. Photos also available from The Walden Shop. 

Available now at your bookstore . . . 

The Transcendental Saunterer: 
Thoreau and the Search for Self 

by David C. Smith 
Hardcover $24.95 

Or order directly from . . . 

Frederic C. Beil Publisher 

609 Whitaker Street 

Savannah, Ga. 31401 

912/233-2446 « 

The Thoreau Society 

acknowledges with thanks 
the continuing support for 

The Concord Saunterer 

provided by 

East Carolina University 

College of Arts and Sciences 
Department of English 


plant fl Historic Walden Woods Tree 

Each year, representatives of American Forests visit Walden Woods 
and hand-pick seeds from the trees shading the paths and ponds. From 
those seeds, we grow direct-offspring Walden Woods Red Maple, 
White Birch, Sycamore and Oaks. 

These trees will become a meaning- 
ful part of your personal environment, 
linking you to the site that so inspired 
Thoreau. And you will have the added 
benefit of knowing that your purchase 
assists American Forests, the oldest 
national nonprofit conservation organ- 
ization (founded in 1875). Help continue 
our work to preserve trees and forests. 

A small Walden Woods tree in a complete planting kit costs $35 plus 
shipping of $8 and will be shipped to you at a time suited to outdoor 
planting. You also receive a lifetime guarantee and a personalized 
Certificate of Authenticity. 

Call or write for your complimentary booklet of hundreds of Ameri- 
can Forests Famous & Historic Trees: 

American Forests 

8701 Old Kings Road 

Jacksonville, FL 32219 

(904) 765-0727 


Looking for a Thoreau title or a 
volume about Emerson, Fuller, 
Charming or Alcott? 

Call us at (413) 848-2061 or visit our 
web site at: thoreau.html 

We stock many out-of-print titles relating to 
Thoreau and other transcendentalists. We 
also appraise collections and travel to 
purchase books of a wide variety. 

Robert F. Lucas Antiquarian Books 

PO Box 63 

Blandford, MA 01008 

"Looked at Mr. Davis's museum... I love to see anything that implies 
a simpler mode of life and greater nearness to the earth. " 

H.D. Thoreau, Journal . September 15, 1860 

Follow in Thoreau's footsteps and visit "Mr. Davis's museum"... 


A Museum of Concord History and Decorative Arts 

A new Thoreau Gallery includes Thoreau's Bed, Desk and Chair from 
Walden Pond, His Surveying Equipment, Walking Stick, Spyglass and 
Snowshoes, and Thoreau Family Possessions • Ralph Waldo Emerson's 
Study • Full-Scale Model of Walden House given by the Thoreau 
Society • New Why Concord? exhibit and Exploring Concord film 

Open daily all year • 
200 Lexington Road • Concord, MA 01742 • (978) 369-9609 

20% discount for Thoreau Society members 

■ ESQ: A Journal of the 
American Renaissance is 
devoted to the study of that 
circle of genius that took 
shape in nineteenth-century 
American literature. ESQ 
focuses upon midcentury 
American romanticism but 
also extends throughout the 
century to encompass its 
origins and effects. 

■ Articles include critical 
essays, source and influence 
studies, and biographical 
studies, as well as more 
general discussions of 

literary theory, literary 
history, and the history of 
ideas. A special feature is the 
publication of essays review- 
ing groups of related figures 
and topics in the field, 
thereby providing a forum 
for viewing recent scholar- 
ship in broad perspectives. 

■ ESQ publishes the work of 
up-and-coming young schol- 
ars, as well as such established 
figures as Lawrence Buell, 
Linck C.Johnson, Carolyn 
Karcher, Emily Budick, and 
Merton M. Seal ts Jr. 

ESQ is published quarterly by the Washington State University Press. 
Address inquiries concerning subscriptions and advertising to the Circu- 
lation Manager, Washington State University Press, PO Box 645910, 
Pullman, Washington 99164-5910. Subscription rates for Thoreau Soci- 
ety members are $14.40 for one year and $25.60 for two years. Foreign 
subscriptions, including Canada, should add $7.50 U.S. currency to cover 
postage and handling. 

Manuscript submissions should be addressed to the Editor, ESQ 
Department of English, Washington State University, PO Box 645020, 
Pullman, Washington 99164-5020. Contributions should conform to The 
Chicago Manual of Style. 

A Different Drummer: 

Thoreau and Will's Independence Day 

Written by Claiborne Dawes 
Illustrated by Steve Moyle 

A delightful introduction to Henry David 
Thoreau for readers, ages 7 to 12, as told in the 
words of a Concord boy, Will Crawford. 

Young Will, punished by his father for 
carving his initials "...well, two of them — in 
Squire Hoar's old beech tree..." is not permitted 
to attend the local July 4, 1845 Independence 
Day festivities. 

When Thoreau comes by on his moving day 
to Walden, he enlists the boy's help in getting his 
few belongings to the cabin. In the course of 
their conversations and activities, Will comes to 
understand Thoreau's search for independence 
from material possessions and his respect for 
nature. APRIL PUB. DATE $7.95 

Also available from Discovery Enterprises, Ltd. 

Concise anthologies of primary source documents from the 
Perspectives on History Series: 

The New England Transcendentalists: 

Life of the Mind and of the Spirit $5.95 

Women in the Civil War: Warriors, Patriots, Nurses, and 
Spies (includes writings of Louisa May Alcott) $5.95 

Iron Horses Across America: The Transcontinental Railroad 
(includes Thoreau's thoughts on railroads) $5.95 

Shot Heard 'Round the World: Beginnings of the American 
Revolution $5.95 

Women in the American Revolution $5.95 

Discovery Enterprises, Ltd., 800-729-1720 
31 Laurelwood Dr.,Carlisle, MA 01741 


Old books bought & sold 

m%m&<z<WAr4&me&! m\ 


Monday - Saturday 10-5 

Fine Selection 
ofThoreau Books 

Explore Thoreau Country on the Concord, Assabet and Sudbury Rivers 

Canoe and Boat Rentals By Hour, Day or Week 

Old Town and Grumman Canoe Sales 

Pontoon Boat Dinner Cruises 

Open April till November 

South Bridge Boat House 

496 Main Street (Route 62) 

Concord, Massachusetts 01746 

(978) 369-9438 

The Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond JpSj^ 

receive a 


The Shop at Walden Pond carries an extensive selection of books 
by and about Henry David Thoreau, the Transcendentalists, and 
the environmental movement. 

Other items include: 

4 coffee mugs 

4 notecards 

4 prints and photographs 

4 clothing 

4 children's books 

£ Walden Pond souvenirs 

Check out our new Thoreau quote tees 
and embroidered Walden Pond 
sweatshirts and hats! 

Call, e-mail, or 

write for a copy of 

our catalog: 915 Walden 

Street, Concord, MA 01742 

(781) 259-4770, e-mail: 


Society 1 " 

Founded in 1941 

Become a member of 
The inoreau Society! 

The Thoreau Society was established 

in 1941 to stimulate interest in and 

foster education about the 

life, works, and philosophy of 

Henry D. Thoreau. 

Membership benefits include: 

• The Thoreau Society Bulletin, a quarterly publication with Society 
news, additions to the Thoreau bibliography, and articles on 
Thoreau and related topics; 

• The Concord Saunterer, an annual scholarly and popular journal 
with two hundred pages of in-depth essays on Thoreau, his times 
and his contemporaries, and his influence today; 

• A 10% discount at The Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond and 
by mail order; 

• Opportunity to attend the Thoreau Society's Annual Gathering for 
four days in July; 

• A network of over 1,700 Thoreauvians from across the country and 
around the world; 

• Special privileges at the Thoreau Home Page, our upcoming World 
Wide Website. 

Please do not remove this page Photocopy this form and mail in. 

Thoreau Society Membership 




Return to: The Thoreau Society 
300101 44 Baker Farm 

Lincoln, MA 01773-3004 

Membership Levels: 

3 Individual $35 

3 Student $15 

3 Family $50 

We ask members outside the U.S. to add 
$15 ($5 Canada/Mexico) for postage. 

Method of Payment: 

O Credit Card O Check 

MC Via AmE.x Disc 
Card # 


Maxham Daguerreotype of Thoreau in 1856 

THE THOREAU SOCIETY, founded in 1941, is an international nonprofit organization 
of students and admirers of Henry D. Thoreau. The purposes of the Society are ( 1 ) to honor 
Henry David Thoreau. (2) to foster education about and stimulate interest in his life, works, 
and philosophy, (3) to coordinate research on his life and writings, and (4) to act as a 
repository for Thoreauviana and articles of memorabilia relevant to Thoreau and his times. 
The Society is headquartered in historic Walden Woods at the Thoreau Institute, 44 Baker 
Farm, Lincoln, Massachusetts 01773. With the Isis Fund, parent organization of the 
Walden Woods Project, the Society maintains an archives/reading room/media center 
complex at the Thoreau Institute. The Society also operates The Shop at Walden Pond, a 
visitor's center with a bookstore and gift shop at the Walden Pond State Reservation in 
Concord. An educational and public outreach program is conducted in collaboration with 
The Concord Museum at 200 Lexington Road in Concord. The Society convenes in 
Concord each July and sponsors various educational programs and other activities through- 
out the year. Membership in the Society is open to the public and includes, in addition to a 
ten percent discount at The Shop at Walden Pond, subscriptions to the annual CONCORD 
S AUNTERER and the quarterly THOREAU SOCIETY BULLETIN. See the membership 
application on the last page of this issue. 



Founded in 1941 

\f This journal is printed on acid-free, recycled paper with nonstate funds.